The Game: Pirates have boarded your ship, and it’s up to you to defend the whole boat. Evade the pirates in the twisty mazes of barrels and treasures in the cargo deck, or pick up one of those barrels and brain the nearest pirate with it. Be careful – some pirates hide inside the barrels, and it’s instant death to pick up an “occupied” barrel and not back off quickly. Some containers reveal a treasure when you pick them up, and you can go back and grab the treasures for bonus points. Clear the deck of pirates to advance to the next level and start again. (Capcom, 1984)
Memories: Not released in the United States, Pirate Ship Higemaru is a nice little riff on the basic concept of Pengo. You can move the components of the “maze”around as you wish, or use those same components to dispose of enemies. Since the procedure for doing this in Higemaru is a bit more complicated than Pengo, there’s actually a training round that must be completed before the game truly begins – but it’s not risk-free, and you can actually lose a life in training! (I guess the message is that if you can’t get past the training screen, please let someone else put a coin in the machine and defend the boat.)
Hopelessly obscure due to its Japan-only release, Higemaru is still getting play-time on modern day consoles thanks to Capcom’s series of retro compilations for just about every machine from the Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn forward. And on the Nintendo Famicom, the characters and basic game play were applied to a whole new set of scenarios in Higemaru Makaijima.