So, we enter 6 Stage, and...
Holy mother of fuck!
What is that?! It's unbelievable, it's horrible! I can't understand the reason for such repugnance!
I think I might be experiencing absolute terror!
OK, to be serious for a moment. 6 Stage actually starts with that massive face thing staring RIGHT at you. It's quite a shock for this giant ugly scary face to suddenly appear out of fucking nowhere in any game, really. It's like playing through the first level of Donkey Kong, and as you go to the next stage, a picture of a severed hand suddenly flashes on screen. I'm not sure if it's just me being a pussy-willow, but seriously, just look at that fucking thing! Why is it even there? It doesn't fit in! It makes absolutely no sense!
Admittedly, I should've been expecting this. In a game that's already shown me hot nude action, shitting monkeys and the most abysmal character art on the planet, a giant face that invokes only sheer terror should've been the next thing for me to see. What's even stranger is that the face is only part of the background, and nothing more. You can't even jump into his mouth, it's purely for show. And what a show!
The rest of 6 Stage is, of course, just as boring as the rest of the game, massive face aside. To be honest, though, I think that this is the game's single defining moment. Sure, the death sequence is just bizarre, and the ugliness of all the characters could help you spot it in a crowd, but this head that appears from nowhere to scare the living piss out of you... That's something you can never, ever forget, no matter how much you try.
Had to dock points for reusing a boss though. For shame!
After the utter insanity we witnessed on 6 Stage, what sorts of things will 7 Stage bestow upon us? Actual full-on porn serving as the background? Getting a power-up that allows you to dismember your enemies and paint the entire stage red with their blood? I mean, SunA would really have to step up their game to top the Giant Screaming Face, but they don't, fortunately. 7 Stage sets new standards of generic design, as instead of adhering to one of the classic platform game tropes (I was expecting an ice stage, personally) it actually goes down to the absolute basics, and is content to create a level simply of differently-coloured cylinders. That's it. Sometimes, they have spikes in-between them, but this is all you've got here. And the boss is another palette swap. I don't think you could be lazier if you tried.
And so, we reach 8 Stage, the final level. C'mon, SunA, show me what you've got!
Oh, poor show, people. 8 Stage at least has a vaguely interesting background going for it, but the rest is just as lame. In fact, the first segment of the stage is simply a straight line, wherein every couple of seconds, a lone enemy appears- once you kill him, then the entire screen gets swarmed with practically every sort of enemy you've encountered so far, making the entire experience very irritating. Even more aggravating is the fact that the crapping birds (a distant cousin of the shitting monkeys, perhaps) will often show up, and they're just out of range unless you somehow possess superhuman abilities and not only manage to hang on to a cudgel long enough, but also manage to hit the fuckers with it. If you can't, you're shit out of luck, as they'll spawn a small army of enemies for you to fight. Oh, rapture.
In fairness, at least 8 Stage is memorable enough for me to split it up into three different sections. That's quite the achievement in this shitty game. After fighting through a gauntlet of enemies baying for your blood, and an annoyingly fiddly platforming section, you finally get up to these blue platforms. At this point, the game has really outstayed its welcome, and you just want all of it to be over. You start to think, "I wonder if this could actually get worse, somehow? Maybe the final boss will be another palette swap. Maybe the last section, just ahead, is actually the designer's own version of hell. Maybe the game will lock up making all this effort for nought." These are good thoughts, but only one of them is accurate. This doesn't stop SunA from making you go "Wait, what?" just before the end, as a last hurrah, a final attack against the player they clearly revile. What do they do?
They break out the Mao, of course.
OK, it's no Gigantic Face of Dread, but it's still a very strange moment. Up until this point, we've been seeing pretty abstract (and awfully drawn) backgrounds which fit in nicely with the idea that Hard Head 2 takes place not in a world of our own. But 8 Stage's final segment drags you, kicking and screaming, right back into the dreaded Real World and the final battle takes place outside Tiananmen Gate, with Chairman Mao's mugshot presiding over this, the battle between our hero and his dreaded opponent. Why? I have absolutely no idea. Even knowing that these guys are from Korea doesn't help, as I'm completely ignorant of everywhere in the world except my home country 'cause I is not smart (jingoism ahoy!) Unless someone sends me some info on these SunA guys, we're only able to wonder at this.
So, back to the task at hand, hmm? Who are we going to fight, under the gaze of Chairman Mao? Could it be a totally new boss? Maybe the giant demon from the intro so that the game's plot actually makes some sense, in the vaguest way possible?
No, of course it's fucking not. Don't be so optimistic. It's that fucking 2 Stage boss. Again.
Thank the Lord for that. It's finally over. I wonder what the ending is gonna be?
Awesome. It's basically the intro in reverse, and with the most horrendous pidgin English I have ever seen. Even better, you just know that the last part is supposed to be 'And they lived happily ever after' but it's mangled so beautifully that you can't help but smile. At least, if you could smile at all after playing this limp excuse for a video game. Oh well, time to put our name on the High Score list. No-one's gonna beat THIS score!
Now that we've come to the end of this 'play-through', what can I say about Hard Head 2? I'll save you a lot of time by summarising the game thusly; it is not, in any way, good. The attempts at bizarre humour don't work. The aesthetics don't work. The controls don't work. There isn't a single element of this game that works. It makes every possible error that a game can make- ugly unappealing graphics, grating music, repetitive stages that eventually blur into one another, the feel that it's less a game and more a chore- and adds insult to injury by being horribly translated with some very, very strange moments that are extremely difficult to enjoy, even in an ironic or kitsch way. I racked up a playing time of 1 hour and 40 minutes on this game, and I genuinely thought it would never end. The rest of the internet may think that it knows what the worst games ever made are (just ask any fat nerd on YouTube for a full list) but they're all wrong. This is the king of one of the inner circles of Gaming Hell; not quite at the very bottom, but pretty close. So, in conclusion, don't play this game. Please.
However, here's still something I want to know- who the hell were SunA Electronics? Judging entirely from their games emulated in MAME, they seem to have been at their peak around the late 80s/early 90s, with some of their later releases going all the way to 1996 (Ultra Balloon, a terrible Bubble Bobble rip-off). It appears that they originate from Korea, which does help to explain some things- Korean game developers are notorious for, well, being pretty bad. Good examples include a company called ESD whose back-catalogue mostly stems from edited versions of Data East's Tumble Pop (seriously) and with graphics stolen from various Neo-Geo games for their Cabal rip-off Swat Police, and SemiCom, whose games aren't actually that bad, but their main franchise is called Hyper Pac-Man. Litigation ahoy! I'm not an expert on geography, so perhaps there's a perfectly rational explanation for the mass epidemic of really poor arcade games that liberally steal from better ones. I just wish I had an explanation for this game and its inception, and perhaps one day this mystery shall be solved. Then again, maybe we're not supposed to know...
And now, it's that time, folks!
For what it's worth, here's the arcade flyer for the American release of Hard Head 2,
swiped mercilessly borrowed from the excellent Arcade Flyers Archive- since I'm not hotlinking it, I reckon I'm in the clear. Click it to embiggen and gaze upon its awful, horrible nature. If that pose looks familiar, it's because it's eerily similar to Sonic's pose on the original Sonic the Hedgehog box art (I stole borrowed the box-art from the also-excellent Box Art at Tumblr) ... Or, at least that was the first thing to pop into my head when I clapped my eyes on this. Another weird thing about this flyer is that the character you see posing before you is the dude from the intro rather than the dude you actually play the game as, and he's not even wearing the right colour clothes. Damn you, Space Age Electronics, and your deceptive ways!
Let's have a look at that text that's accompanying the flyer, though...
LOVABLE HARD HEAD RETURNS WITH A BROKEN HEART
I dunno about his broken heart, but this dude is not lovable by any stretch of the imagination. Even Cthulhu has more charm than him.
THAT ONLY YOU CAN MEND BY TAKING OUR HERO ON THIS COLOURFUL ADVENTURE OF 8 STAGES
Nice to see that whoever wrote this was paying attention to the '1 STAGE' naming convention.
TO IT'S EXCITING CONCLUSION!
If by 'exciting' you mean 'confusing', then sure.
Also: they totally spoil the GIGANTIC HEAD moment on this flyer. Shameful.
Hard Head 2 Sound Pack
So, you think you know bad, huh? You think you've seen everything that Hard Head 2 can throw at you?! Well, I've got news for you, buddy, things are about to get so much worse as now, exclusively at Gaming Hell, you can sample the delights of the 2 music tracks that play throughout the entire game. Admittedly, I only ripped the level music, and skipped the boss music, stage clear music, high score table music, and all that, but most of those seemed to be ripped from the public domain anyway (as with most SunA releases) and I couldn't be bothered. These two tracks are what you'll hear the most anyway, and just imagine- these loop forever. I also threw in the two voice clips I could get form the game, but because I'm completely incompetent with audio tools, I couldn't get them in stereo- for some reason, these sounds only come out of the left speaker. You'll have to make do, sucker.
So, Hard Head 2... From hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee!
Take me back to the index! Just... Just make it STOP!