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ARC Rabio Lepus (US Rabbit Punch)




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  • The 1987 arcade title Rabio Lepus (known as Rabbit Punch in North America) was one of the lesser-known games from V-System (later renamed Video System) and designed by eventual Psikyo founder Shin Nakamura, running on the 68000/Z80 hardware that became increasingly popular in the '80s. Rabio Lepus begins as many games of its time did, with a royal kidnapping. A mecha army takes gentle King Kitashirakawa and his granddaughters hostage, and it’s up to Rabio and Lepus, the elite members of the robot rabbit guard, to retrieve them while delivering justice to the fiends responsible. Fueled by carrots, armed with missiles, and packing a mean punch, the determined duo won’t quit until the royal family has been safely returned to their homeland. The storyline plays out in brief cutscenes after every fourth stage, although the US version omits some of that dialog because localizations of the time. The gameplay of Rabio Lepus is typical of most side scrolling shooters, except with a few key differences worth noting. The weapon system is streamlined, with one button firing a stream of flashing bullets and the other unleashing a cluster of missiles. You’ve got an endless supply of bullets, but the game isn’t so generous with missiles, granting you a small handful and forcing you to collect more from the cans of carrots found in each stage. Your bullets can’t be powered up, but the missiles can, doubling in both strength and number after you collect a ribbon. Having a bow stuck to your rabbit’s ears doesn’t make it any more intimidating, but you can’t argue with the results! Another wrinkle to the gameplay is melee combat, a feature not often seen in the genre. Come dangerously close to an enemy and your rabbit jabs it with a gloved fist, doing heavy damage or destroying it outright. You’ll often need to do this to clear away the tougher foes blocking your path, but it’s also useful for cracking open the carrot cans, keeping the power ups inside from falling off the screen as they so often do when the cans are struck with bullets. It isn't so bad when the cans contain bags of money or a few missiles, but it can be downright infuriating when you find a tanuki (who isn't Manuke by the way!). This rare item can turn you into a rainbow-colored comet of death for eight seconds, but not if it drops out of your reach.

    Despite being lesser known, Rabio Lepus was both a strong debut for Video System as well as a solid entry in a genre that would explode in popularity years later. The game wears its 16-bit hardware on its sleeve, with parallax scrolling, an eerie sci-fi setting, and digitized speech which regularly warns players of approaching bosses and depleted missile stocks. Past that, the devastating “rabbit punch” likely paved the way for other melee tactics in shooters, like grazing and the laser sword in Treasure's Radiant Silvergun. However Rabio Lepus has its own issues. Each stage is short and frustratingly cramped, with surprise ambushes from swarms of enemies likely to mar your progress, even with a generous life bar and two player support. The frustration gets worse in the US release Rabbit Punch, which drags you back to the ninth stage after losing all your lives, no matter how far you’ve made it past that point. It was given a rather loose conversion on the PC Engine, titled Rabio Lepus Special, a significantly different game from the arcade original with longer levels, improved music, and the option to key in codes at the title screen for extra lives and more powerful weapons. On the down side, the backgrounds were downgraded in the transition to the HuCard format (you can forget seeing Robocop’s exposed brain!), there’s no two player option, and you’re sent back to a checkpoint if you die, making an already difficult game that much tougher. The only other option is the emulated arcade release on Hamster's Oretachi Gēsen Zoku series for PlayStation 2, in this case Volume 14 which came out in 2006. While the series ended with Rabio Lepus Special, its battle droid bunnies made cameos in Video System’s popular Sonic Wings / Aero Fighters series; they're unlockable characters in the Super NES port released by their U.S. division McO'River (later renamed Video System USA). The kidnapped king Taro Kitashirakawa is also playable in Sonic Wings, renamed to “Lord River-n-White” in the US version. (It’s a reasonably close translation of shirakawa, which means “white river” in Japanese.) The ghost-like Tenukii Chaud frequent shows up as a villain as well, along with its predecessor Turbo Force. Finally, there are adverts of Rabio Lepus in Super Volleyball for the Sega Genesis, although oddly, the game itself was never ported to that system, instead finding a home on the Japanese PC Engine. With Video System and its successor Psikyo long out of business, it would take a miracle if Hamster re-released the game on the Arcade Archives, with the exception of Sonic Wings 2 for the Neo Geo. But hey, Rabio Lepus did inspire other games like IGS' Astro Rabby and Exact's Jumping Flash in the years to come.


  • Se ve muy genial ese juego.