Son Son

So there’s a law that every Japanese developer, at some point, is obligated to do a video game interpretation of The Journey to the West, right? Well, here’s Capcom’s: Sonson. Coming from 1984, Sonson seems like their way of getting it out of their system right up front.

On its surface, Sonson doesn’t really offer too much — it’s basically an auto-side-scrolling shooter in which the vertical movement of hero (or heroine? Son Son has appeared in recent games as a female) is restricted to six horizontal channels. It’s somewhere between shooter and platformer.

It’s fun enough, I suppose. Enemy patterns grow increasingly complex as you advance through the stages, with tough “bosses” (see image above) to add a little tension to the action. Plenty of point-rich bonus items appear (and the game is, after all, about the score) to entice players into risky maneuvers. It’s fast, moderately difficult, and reasonably entertaining.

However, the real appeal of Sonson has more to do with its historical role. Look at those enemies up there! Those guys are direct antecedents of Ghosts ‘N Goblins’ iconic baddies. Here at the beginning, you can already see Capcom’s design tracks taking form: Vertical shooters like Vulgus and 1942, and platformers like Ghosts ‘N Goblins, Bionic Commando, etc. Sonson sows the seeds for future classics: A simian shooter that would set down roots and evolve into the arcade masterpieces the company would become known for.

6 thoughts on “Son Son

  1. I came to SonSon really late – like, I didn’t even know it existed until the music showed up in an annoying minigame in Zack & Wiki – but it’s good! Not so good that I can be bothered to play for more than a few minutes at a time, but, man, I dig that music. If nothing else, SonSon is probably the best Journey to the West game I’ve ever played, and the Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 character is pretty much the only fighting game guy I’ve ever been able to control even reasonably well.

  2. SonSon is a game that I know isn’t all that spectacular, but I love it a lot for its cartoony Journey to the West theme and things like those giant cloud soldiers, the completely harmless frilled lizard NPC that runs by now and then, the golden invincibility cloud you fly back in on after a death that you might not even notice if you’re hasty at getting back into the action, and the Buddha statue at the end of your journey before the arcade cycle starts again.

    It’s certainly got a lot of character, that’s for sure. SonSon’s one of the few games to feature a manga* in its official art in the C3 Reloaded compilation, though it requires a lot of grinding the slots to get the whole thing.

    * The other two are Commando and Ghosts ‘n Goblins.

  3. This game marked the start of SNK lifting ideas from Capcom. If you’ve ever played Psycho Soldier, the gameplay is VERY similar, although the graphics and sound are a huge improvement. The artwork borders on 16-bit and the soundtrack has real voice… quite an accomplishment in the 1980s! (Yes, it’s that same annoying earworm that’s oft repeated in the King of Fighters series.)

  4. SonSon is indeed a decent game. I think I like it more than I really should. Simple yet quite playable.

    As for SonSon in Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, if my memory serves me right that SonSon is the original’s granddaughter.

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