As much as I love City Connection, I'm nowhere near great at it. A sign of this is I never figured out how to make the secret items appear. That is, until a reader email from Kishi lead me to Arcade Fan, which has a page on City Connection that leads to a (archive-only) page detailing the secret items appearance conditions, then I asked Twitter for help and @_sharc lead us to this site and this site which explained the methods for the Famicom version which also work in the arcade version and... Sorry, I'm a bit breathless here but my God I've wanted to solve this mystery for SO LONG. Anyway, making the secret items appear is costly- the first two need you to waste a lot of oil cans, an offering to the City Connection Gods if you will- but three of them require a very strange technique, the Double Shot. By pressing the Fire button as your car is turning and as it faces the screen, your car will fire two oil cans, one left and one right. It's a desperation attack, of sorts, because you can only do it once per life, and you can even do it without any oil cans to hand! So, here's the secrets, and how to make 'em happen:
|Stage 1 (America)||Fire your 10th oil can while passing the Statue of Liberty||Formation-Z enemy (1UP)|
|Stage 3 (France)||Perform a Double Shot when you have 0 Oil Cans in stock||Heart (Three will appear, grab them all to warp ahead)|
|Stage 7 (India)||Perform a Double Shot outside the Taj Mahal||The sun will set (Visual effect)|
|Stage 9 (Japan)||Jump over a Roadblock||White Rabbit (Acts as a Balloon)|
|Stage 10 (Australia)||Perform a Double Shot anywhere||Black Rabbit (Acts as an Oil Can)|
The first one's pretty easy. On Stage 3 (France), completely paint the top and bottom rows, then go to the top row and fire a Double Shot when you have 20 Oil Cans in reserve to see Halley's Comet in the background. According to this site, Halley's Comet was put in as it was due to appear the next year, 1986.
The other one was listed on this site- a 9900 Points bonus item in Stage 4 (Germany)- and until now, it wasa mystery to us as machine translation wasn't really helping. Fortunately, @gingerbeardman went to the trouble of asking around, with @Cheesemeister3k providing a translation (and @RahanAkero sent it to us too, which reminded us that we forgot to upload this updated page, hahaha we're smart) and successfully testing it revealed that it's not a bonus item at all! Instead, having 29, 30 or 31 Oil Cans in reserve when you hit an spinning enemy vehicle gives you 9900 Points instead of the normal. This only applies to the first car you hit, though, so you can't chain multipe 9900 bonuses.
According to arcade-history's page on the game, only 1000 PCBs of the original Japanese version of City Connection were produced. Overseas, the game was licensed by Kitcorp (also known as Kitco or Kitkorp, they mostly brought over other developer's arcade games, including SNK's T.N.K. III and Taito/UPL's Return of the Invaders) and retitled Cruisin (flyer for it is here). The title change is superficial- it doesn't change anything else (aside from the text on the intermission screens, which is now yellow instead of pink, which I missed, so thanks The Cutting Room Floor!) and when you insert a coin, the screen before you press start still calls the game City Connection. Also according to arcade-history, Midway had to spell Cruis'n USA with that ridiculous apostrophe because of this Kitcorp release. Both are wrong anyway- it's a G that's missing off the end, so really it should be Cruisin'. C'mon guys, get it right!
The first port is for the NES/Famicom, easily the most well-known version of the game, getting a release in both Japan (1985, barely a month after the arcade game... Apparently) and the US/Europe (1988) under its original name. The European version was limited to Spain, so as a result it's one of the more expensive PAL titles. This version was also developed by Hect, and it's a case of six of one, half a dozen of another. To start with the bad, the soundtrack has been reduced to three songs- the title screen/intermission jingle, and two main themes (New York and London) that alternate between stages- the graphics are a lot less colourful, and critically, the scrolling is very choppy for the highway tiers. Additionally, everything feels a lot more cramped, which can make some jumps (especially on Round 2) much trickier to make). On the plus side, it's slightly easier to play- rather than individual pixels, the highway comes in 'blocks' so you don't have to be as exact when painting, and you're free to turn around wile popping a wheelie (you still can't jump during a wheelie, though). Somewhere inbetween the two, the game is set to the arcade's Hard setting, so there's more cars and cats around. Not my preferred version of the game, to be honest- it feels too cramped and the cats seem to spawn in places you can't avoid them more frequently- but it's still better than some corners of the internet say it is. Not biased, honest.
The game also had a few regional changes, some of the most baffling of the era, in fact. The Famicom version is as it is in the arcade- the driver is Clarice (she's even in the Japanese animated TV spot for the game), the intermission screens keep the NOW, YOU HAVE DRIVEN ALL THE HIGHWAY!! message, and the title screen is a black screen with the game's logo, which I always associate with the earliest NES/Famicom games. The US/EU versions replace Clarice with an unnamed dude doing a bad Elvis impression, the title screen is now white with this dude plastered all over it, and there's new intermission scenes. These intermission scenes are interesting, as rather than take out objectionable material such as crosses on gravestones and the like, they add some in! The very first of the new between-stage intermissions is of our new hero having a quick smoke. That's a Ninty No-No (the unreleased Mother/Earthbound localisation removed cigarettes, as did Deja-Vu) so who knows how it ended up in the game unchecked. Additionally, the US version changes the mileage counter from kilometres to miles (still increases at the same rate) and doesn't record your top score on the title screen. As for US-to-EU differences, just the title screen- with a TM after the game's logo and rearranged legal gumf at the bottom- is different between the two. Oh, and playing the US version on an EU machine causes an odd glitch where the score display scrolls off-screen constantly.
It's this NES version that's been the one ported elsewhere rather than the arcade one, though. It was included in 2003's Jaleco Collection Vol. 1 for the PS1 (alongside the NES ports of Argus, Exerion, Field Combat, Formation Z, Ninja Jajamaru-kun and Rodland), 2004's Jajamaru-kun Jr. Denshouki - Jalecole mou Arisourou for the Game Boy Advance (alongside a new Jajamaru-kun game and emulated NES versions of Exerion, Formation Z, Ninja Jajamaru-kun and Jajamaru no Daibouken), re-released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2008 (which is doubly maddening because had the Jaleco rights owners Hamster been so inclined they could've thrown the arcade version up there, seeing as there's a place for it, but hey whatever right) and re-released for the 3DS eShop. On the plus side, the VC and eShop versions made it to Europe, which means more than five people played it legally on this side of the world... In 50hz on the Wii, of course. Additionally, the manual for the VC version raises an interesting question- why does the cat carry that flag around? It is a mystery...
Of course, that's not the only port. There was an MSX version too, which came out later in Japan. Released in 1986 in ROM Cassette form, this port has considerably more compromises made to get it on the system compared to, say, The Fairyland Story. For a start, similar to the MSX version of Contra, City Connection no longer has any scrolling, and it's a flick-screen affair now. Not ideal, but it does mean that the cats are easier to avoid. Another major change is that oil cans no longer stun enemies- they outright destroy them and leave points items behind (in the form of hearts, natch). Naturally, the graphics and sound have taken a massive hit too, and the highway uses the 'blocks' from the NES port. Overall, though, it's not the same as the arcade or NES versions but it's serviceable, and definitely playable. The game was also released in Spain in cassette tape form, although it seems to be the same as the ROM cartridge version, from what I can tell. On the plus side, while the Spanish release has some very dull inlay art, the instructions stick to the game's roots, as they mention Clarice by name.
One of the more elusive versions of the game- one that we needed help in acquiring, so thank you @_sharc for your invaluable assistance!- is the Wundows PC port of the arcade version of the game. Weirdly, the 2000s were a plentiful time for ports of old arcade games getting released on PC in Japan- as well as this, there were releases for games like Splatterhouse and Kiki Kaikai! Anyway, City Connection for Windows was released in a standard jewel-case box in Japan in 2003 under the companies PCCW Japan and MediaKite, then again in a DVD-style box in 2004 by Jaleco and MediaKite. The two different company names here is a little cnfusing, but basically back in 2000 PCCW took an 81% stake in Jaleco and so they were rebranded PCCW Japan. That name change was reverted in 2004, though, hence the company name change on the second release. Anyway, until the next port of the game, this version was the most accurate- it's basically a straight emulation of the arcade game with dip-switch settings and remappable keys. That's about it really- there is a more accessible version of the game out there (which we'll ve talking about very shortly) but if you want to play the game legally on a PC, this is your best option.
Finally, you can now play City Connection on the most cutting-edge technology available- no, really- as Hamster, Co. have been re-releasing many weird arcade games as part of their Arcade Archive line on the Playstation 4. Alongside games like Wonder Boy, Rygar and Nova 2001, City Connection is also part of this set, being released on October 2nd 2014 in Japan and May 5th 2015 in America. We don't have a Playstation 4 because we're behind, as ever, but we know someone who does, so with infinite apologies to our test subject (sorry, John) we have played this version! It's mostly a straight emulation with fairly bare-bones options, but they include dipswitches, scanlines and online leaderboards. The only quibbles are that the music seems to be a touch faster than it should be, and on a Playstation 4 controller the high-jump-into-turn manoeuvre seems to be a lot harder to pull off. However, this is literally your only option for an arcade version on a home console, and the US version comes with a hilariously-bad translation of the game's plot. For reference, here is is on the JP PSN Store, the US PSN Store and Hamter's official site (which also has the game's instruction sheet/flyer which indicates it had a pseudo-subtitle of Around the World). Sadly, if you're hoping for City Connection-specific trophies, you're out of luck- all the Arcade Archives games have the same trophies, including 'read the manual' and 'reset the game'. Never mind.
We've given these their own section as they occupy a rather unique place in game history- Japanese mobile games are almost always impossible to play in our modern times of iPhones and Androids and whatnot. Emulating even something designed for games like the m-Gage is like pulling teeth, but several Jaleco mobile games have, for reasons we will never truly understand, been ported to the Playstation Vita. Even more bafflingly, these somehow made it to the UK and US Playstation Mobile shops. The City Connection games in particular come as a double-pack, including City Connection DX and City Connection Rocket. Originally, these games were released for i-mode mobile phones in Japan only, but now any old fool (read: meeeee) can play them, so let's have a looksie, eh?
I can't say if this one had any gameplay improvements from the 2002 version, but it does look much closer to the arcade version than the NES/Famicom port. It still uses the block system for painting the roads, however, and everything's much smaller. The way the game itself plays, though, is a lot choppier, and the tiny screen makes it pretty difficult to play as you have even less room to manoeuvre than usual. Additionally, Fire is assigned to the Down key, so you can no longer accelerate as you fall. Also, rather than hold Up and Jump to do a higher jump, pressing Up does a big jump, and a different key does the normal jump. On the plus side, it keeps a surprising amount of content in-tact, including different music tracks and, well, for an early colour mobile game like this, it's pretty impressive. It even keeps the Double Shot in! Had it been sold on its own, though, it probably would've been skippable. Nice bonus, anyway.
Clarice- who has been redesigned to look considerably more like a 90s pizza delivery girl- has changed jobs from general mischief-maker to... Spy, I guess? Rather than paint the roads, City Connection Rocket has her flitting between highway tiers to collect secret documents hidden in briefcases. To assist jumping between rows, her Honda City has been outfitted with a rocket boost that, when activated, propels her car in the direction she's facing. It can also be used to attack enemy cars and destroy weak parts of the highway, but you have to wait for its meter to recharge between uses. She still uses oil cans for defence, but now has a choice between Gatling (same as standard City Connection) or Homing (which lock on but take time to hit their opponent), and she's still pestered by cars and cats (who can now parachute in to each stage, showing true dedication to their cause of trolling poor Clarice).
Furthermore, there are a few countries to visit- USA, England, India and France for the first eight stages, Japan, China and USA again for the final eight, with a Secret Underground Base as the final level- with your next location picked by finding a flag icon, and a different Stage Clear picture of Clarice depending on your country. The final wrinkle, aside from more secret items that reference other Jaleco games including Field Combat and Saint Dragon, are the boss encounters against evil secret organisation agents Tequila, Scotch and their boss (whose name I can't get a good translation of beyond 'rectified spirit'- Vodka, maybe?) that occur every four stages, change depending on the route you take, and include a tank, dual helicopters, dual helicopters that launch parachuting cats and a laser-firing robo-suit. The game saves any secret characters you've found as well as special red documents that have special info on... Stuff (which we can't read because it's in Japanese), and there's a pause menu to save your exact stage/location and go back to it later. Fortuantely, you can also start from the second 'half' of the game straight away once you get that far.
Sadly, City Connection Rocket is perhaps a bit too ambitious for its mobile phone hardware. I love the idea of it- it's an even more platform-centric version of City Connection with more options for vertical ascent! That's neat! The three main problems, however, are that it's incredibly slow (despite the title), the stages are large and loop around but the screen size feels too small to accommodate for it so you'll somehow keep getting lost, and the cats are far, far more annoying now, as while they parachute in you can still hit them and it's much harder to avoid mid-air collision. The net effect of all these is the stages feel like they drag on far longer than really necessary. Honestly, had this been remade for something like the GBA or even PSP, I'd be all over it, but it's not quite up to par. Specific to the Playstation Vita version, however, is the fact that it freezes up a lot, especially if you pause or lock the system for a short while- you'll be able to move on the Pause menu but the game itself will hang and your only option is to restart the application from scratch. Also lots of stretched pixels because of how it's displayed. Bit of a shame, that. One for the curious, though!
Yes, it can! Found completely by mistake as almost everything on this website is, I came across this page with some photos of what appears to be a promotional manga for the Famicom port, printed in the October 1985 issue of CoroCoro Comic, a monthly comic aimed at young boys. I haven't posted the actual photos as they're not mine, so go to that site to see it.
Obviously, the language barrier means I can't tell you much about it, but it definitely has Clarice (alongside some new kid who seems to be the one driving the car), a rival who looks a lot like the guy used in the NES version, and the cat. It also has a few little scenes that replicate the look of the actual game! Afterwards, it has some basic info on the game and a print advert for it. What an amazing find! Thanks to the intrepid work of @HokutoNoShock via the Twitters, the artist was identified as Kazuhisa Iwata- Anime News Network info here, Japanese wiki here- whose main work seems to be the Godzilla manga. Yes, that means you can totally connect City Connection to Godzilla.
Developed by SoulstealerMex86, City Connection Reloaded seems to be based more on the NES game- cramped stages, and blocks instead of pixels- but for the most part, it does its own thing, and should be considered more of a reimagining than a faithful recreation. For a start, the levels are a lot shorter, now have bottomless pits (both dotted around and at both ends, as they no longer loop around) and have completely different designs that include the likes of moving platforms and spikes that flip over. You've also got a timer, and if it runs out, you have to try again, no matter how many lives you have left. The controls are mostly the same, but you can now stop if you tap the opposite direction and you have a limited number of turbo boosts that will stun other cars if you ram into 'em. Finally, you can play the game as normal or in Hardcore Mode which removes cats and cars but gives you one life and has a much harsher time limit. There's a third mode against a CPU car that can't be unlocked. It's a pretty neat spin on the idea, and it goes at a much faster pace than the original, so you should give it a try.
This two-sided flyer of course has City Connection on the front, but also lists Jaleco's other early Famicom games- in order, there's Exerion, Formation-Z. Ninja-Kun: Majou no Bouken (that's a port of the PUL arcade game Ninja-Kid, rather than Jaleco's own Ninja JaJaMaru-Kun), and Field Combat. Different developers and publishers often numbered their Famicom releases (Namco is another example) hence the JP-01 to JP-05 numbering here, and our friend City Connection is JP-05. The other notable thing here is it uses some art from the TV commercial for the game (the shots of the cops gett oil-slicked on the right, and the shot of Clarice)- it seems Jaleco were advertising the game fairly heavily (although other games like Urusei Yatsura: Lum no Wedding Bell and Ninja JaJaMaru-Kun would get TV ads too, it seems City Connection was the only of these early releases to get a TV commercial- a nicely animated one at that). Thanks again to @_sharc who acquired this piece of City Connection minutiae for us (in the same parcel as the PC port, no less)
To start, boy is my face red- I was convinced that Jaleco's Game Tengoku/The Game Paradise series had absolutely no City Connection references at all. It turns out it does Gunbare! Game Tengoku 2, which only appeared on the Playstation, is a bizarre light-gun/shmup hybrid, and it has Clarice and her little car as a playable character... The reason I never spotted this, however, is because she's undergone a total transformation. Out with the long blue hair and racing suit, in with short blonde hair and more casual clothes, and her car's now a pea-soup-green colour, and her name's been retranslated as Claris. Additionally, her cat adversary is nowhere to be seen, from what I played. Her little jalopy, naturally, shoots oil cans (standard fire) and wheels (lock-on shot), and her bomb attack is just firing out a load of oil barrels scatter-shot style.
I'm going to hazard a guess that Clarice (or Claris, whatever) changed so drastically for this game because otherwise she'd look too similar to Selia from Plus Alpha (who originally had blue hair too) and Miki (on the right) who co-pilots the Genesis 3 from Field Combat. Apparently the fact that Clarice changed appearance is joked about in City Connection Rocket...
There's a record company called City Connection that has a retro game music-centric subsidiary called Clarice Disc. Their speciality seems to be the companies that don't get enough love these days, including Sunsoft, Hot-B and Jaleco. I would eat my hat if Clarice Disc is not an intentional nod to City Connection, as looking at Clarice Disc's website shows Clarice and the car from CC as little icons, the current header on their Twitter page is a shot from the NES City Connection, and their shop's 'add to basket' button is Clarice loading a CD into the CC car's boot. How ace is that? The answer is 'very'. In fact, the company apparently has a games division that actually owns the rights to City Connection as well as other Jaleco games, presumably- the PS4 releases of City Connection and Exerion mention Jaleco but a copyright credit is given to Clarice Games on both. I can only assume there's a City Connection superfan out there who made all this possible.
Finally, there's a set of Jaleco-themed avatars available on the Playstation Network (Japan only) for 52 Yen (originally 50 before the tax hike) each, including (from what I could see) Avenging Spirit, Ninja Jajamaru-kun, Field Combat, Formation Z... And above is the one for City Connection, which actually does call her Clarice (thanks, @LandRoverAttack, for translating that one). The artwork comes from the TV advert we saw earlier for the Famicom port. You can grab it from the online store here if you wanna be a cool dude on PSN.
The arcade and Famicom versions star Clarice- her name appears at the bottom of the arcade version's high score table- and depending on where you look, her reasons for driving everywhere are different. arcade-history and the Japanese Wikipedia page probably has the most detail, establishing that Clarice is 15 years old and travelling the world looking for the ideal man, hence why when she gets hit, her car explodes into a pile of hearts. The Japanese Wikipedia page also tries to figure out why the police get involved, offering theories such as Clarice being too young to drive, driving too fast, or without a license.
On the other hand, the English Wikipedia entry says that she's on a world tour, and she's marking the roads as a way of proving she's visited a country- this vandalism annoys the police, and so they give chase.
Originally, this page was missing the Japanese Famicom version's plot to go on, as I was unable to find translations of it online and didn't even have a physical copy- I happen to have the Famicom version, but it's unboxed. However, Twitter user @gingerbeardman went to the trouble (again) of finding a transcribed version of the manual online for me- thank you!- and a bit of jiggery-pokery (better switch your text encoding to Shift-JIS to read it properly) got a machine-translatable version (with some of the blanks filled in with a later version, as you'll see). This one establishes Clarice as a girl from California who wants to travel on every highway in the world, but causes a lot of bother and gets the police on her tail quickly. This version also specifies that Clarice's car is a 4WD vehicle with a V8, 7-litre, twin-turbo engine (that can also jump).
The Spanish MSX release is a bit more vague (from what I can read- howdy, machine translation!) as it seems to say that Clarice is painting the roads just to make them nice and colourful. The police want to arrest her because they don't share 'her frivolous enthusiasm' (their words, not mine).
The US NES version probably has the silliest plot of all of these. Your character- who is now a man, who I like to think is called Claude- has robbed a high-end paint store in New York and the car is leaking paint. Once you've literally painted the highway, you get a boat to England to evade the cops and oh my God this is so silly seriously why would you rob a paint store but at the same time this is gloriously over-the-top video game plot. I remember reading this plot synopsis in How to Win at Nintendo Games Volume 2 and I thought they'd made it up, that it couldn't possibly be in the manual for the game. How wrong I was. Here it is so you can see for yourself.
Originally, I thought the Wii Virtual Console version had its own plot, until I saw the Famicom version and realised it was basically a translation/edit of that version- again, this version specifies the player character is a young Californian who wants to travel every highway in the world whose reckless driving technique gets the attention of the police. It also keeps the same level of detail about the car, but its speculation about the cat appears to be original. Isn't it funny? The most mysterious version of the game's story, the Famicom one, was in front of me the whole time! Also, @gingerbeardman pointed out that the Wii version lists the bonus life as 100,100 points instead of the correct 100,100.
The 3DS release of the NES version re-uses the 'you robbed a paint store' plot. Well, I think it does. I don't actually have a 3DS (expecting a bunch of angry emails telling me to get with the times in 3, 2, 1...) so I can only go on what's up on Nintendo's site. Does the in-game manual stick to this version of the plot, or does it come up with a new one? Do let us know.
Finally- and something that brings us full circle, which makes me happy- the Hamster and PSN Store pages for the PS4 release go back to the story given on arcade-history and the Japanese wikipedia, that Clarice is a 15-year old girl travelling the world for her ideal man. Isn't it nice when we end up back where we started, eh?