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A History of Korean Gaming

Table of Contents

Part 1

Part 2

Back to the Index


宣雅電子工業 선아전자공업 SunA

Founded:

August 12, 1985

Status:

defunct (around 2005)

Key People:

高光鎭 고광진 Go Gwangjin:
President
박태규 Park Taegyu:
Export Manager (1984-1991)1

Website:

none


One of the very first Korean arcade game manufacturers, their game library is comparatively well preserved and available for western gamers, mainly thanks to the MAME project and the fact that export of arcade games was undertaken from the beginning, while the home market remained very seclusive until the mid-90s. Nonetheless, there's a bunch of their games left that are hardly known at all, though at least minimal information is available for arcade games at the Korean games rating board.

Like with many early companies, not all of their products are completely original, though they copied to a somewhat lesser degree than most developers at the time. In the late 90s, they started building more and more gambling machines rather than "real" games, a business which completely took over from 2000 on. There was another technology based (completely unrelated to arcade machines) company named Suna, was renamed to We Corporation in 19982. This company has nothing to do with the SunA that's introduced here.


Games

고인돌 (Goindol) - Arcade (1987)

American Arcade Cabinet

Goindol was one of the first arcade games developed in Korea, and at the same time the first one to get exported to the international market. A fast-paced Breakout clone, it incorporates many of the improvements first introduced by Arkanoid, like a gun powerup or indestructible blocks. It also contains a lot of elements one would rather expect to see on a Pinball table, like rubber bands, targets and holes.

The player gets a constant adversary with the eponymous caveman (Goindol literally means dolmen in Korean and is often used to indicate anything neolithic. The Prehistoric video game series went by the same name in Korea). He walks around over the blocks and keeps throwing pieces of garbage at the player, that can't hurt him directly but serve as obstacles for the ball. There's a cure for that, though, by pulling the rug out from under him. As soon as he is in free fall, the ship gets equipped with a special gun to shoot away his loincloth. Yep, there's full frontal stone age nudity in this game. If the feat is completed, he won't bother the player again, at least not until the next one of hundred stages.

Quick Info:

Developer:

SunA

Publisher:

SunA

Genre:

Breakout

Theme:

Prehistoric


Goindol (Arcade)



Hard Head - Arcade (1988)

Although the official Title Hard Head was the same in every region, SunA's second game used to be known in Korea as "Jjanggu Baksa" (Dr. Bulgehead)3. It is incredible how many elements from other games are squeezed into a surprisingly fun melange platformer. Hard Head (and his twin in 2-player mode) carries a bubble gun that encloses enemies into bubbles, which can then be used as trampoline, just like in Bubble Bobble. Similar to Super Mario Bros, items are gained from blocks by jumping at them with the hero's head, while enemies are defeated by stepping on theirs. Then there's passages where one has to break through walls by using a hammer, which is very reminiscent of Wrecking Crew.

However, other than with contemporary titles of home entertainment companies like Clover and Zemina, the designer (who sadly isn't credited at all) had also a few quite unique ideas, like working musical instruments used as platforms, a football that can be found in every stage and kicked through a goal at the level end for extra points. There even is a day/night change hinted at through pallette rotation of the mostly monocoloured background. The game has a time limit, but rather than just killing the player off when it runs out, more and more evil suns come attacking the player already when only little time is left.

The game can be enjoyed by two players simultaneously, who can use each other's head as a springboard to reach higher places without relying on nearby enemies. Only in the second half the game tends to get a bit tedious, as there's almost no new elements introduced after the middle, and those from the early stages grow old fast because of their steady repetition. Less interesting is also the music, which is mostly snatched together from various classical pieces.

The story isn't very clear, but it seems the purpose of the whole adventure is to please a woman shown in "cutscenes" between each level, where she get's one more pet enemy each time. There's also an animation played of her kissing the hero when a heart item is collected during the stages, but the only effect seems to be a raised score.

Quick Info:

Developer:

SunA

Publisher:

SunA

Genre:

Platforming


Hard Head (Arcade)



Super Ranger / Rough Ranger - Arcade (1988)

The intro to this game has to be the funniest thing in history. The damsel in distress gets kidnapped by relaxed terrorists, while the two "heroes" just sit quietly on a table right next to the scene, not moving a muscle until after the deed was completed. Only then are they moving out to "rescue" her. Even at the end of each stage, a terrorist runs into the screen holding the hostage, just to mock the completely apathetic protagonists.

Rough Ranger was certainly SunA's worst act of stealing from other games. Not only is the gameplay almost identical to Namco's Rolling Thunder, its animations also were clearly used as a template for the graphics. It really almost is a re-skinned Rolling Thunder with new levels, the only real additions being simultaneous 2-player gameplay and a stage map showing the current progress in the game in between stages, while all extra weapons got cut, except an alternative amunition type for the standard pistol.

The game was nonetheless ported to the USA, and while it was licensed to Sharp Image, it also got distributed by Capcom of all things, as the machine's marquee shows4.

Quick Info:

Developer:

SunA

Publisher:

SunA

Genre:

Action: Side-Scrolling


Rough Ranger (Arcade)



스파크맨 (Spark Man) - Arcade (1989)

Spark Man (Arcade)

Spark Man is a side-scrollin run-'n-gun, whose protagonist seems to be loosely based on Wooroemae, a superhero from a 1980s series of live action / anime hybrid films5. The setting is a weird cold-war perspective cyberpunk world, where the hero is seen jumping on a horse on front of the Kremlin(?) in between missions.

There are no horse riding stages, but occasionally Spark Man can find some weird flying elevators as transportation. Some bosses are also fought in a Cabal-like shooting range mode. There are a couple of limited extra weapons, like flame throwers and rocket launchers. Spark Man can fire in five directions, only downward shots are not possible.

While the game itself is more original than Rough Ranger, it's still full of borrowed content from other sources. The intro shows god's hand from Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam putting the spark of life in one of Hajime Sorayma's Gynoids. During the game, Jabba the Hut and AT-ST Walkers from Star Wars appear as enemies.

Quick Info:

Developer:

SunA

Publisher:

SunA

Genre:

Action: Side-Scrolling

Theme:

Cyberpunk


Spark Man (Arcade)



Star Fighter - Arcade (1990)

Star Fighter (Arcade)

Star Fighter is a fairly default vertical-scrolling shoot-'em-up in space, with a weapons upgrade system seen in countless other games: The powerups have numbers counting down as the player shoots at them, and each number represents a different weapon.

Quick Info:

Developer:

SunA

Publisher:

SunA

Genre:

Shoot-'em-Up

Theme:

Space Combat


Star Fighter (Arcade)



Hard Head 2 - Arcade (1991)

American Flyer

The only direct sequel among SunA's non-gambling games. Hard Head 2 is a much more reasonably assembled platformer than its predecessor, which almost makes it more boring. Luckily, the visual design is still crazy as hell. A damsel in distress waits to be rescued, here it is a hippy chick that got captured by the devil while dancing with Hard Head. In between levels, the devil joyfully chews on her, while the hero runs around in panic, mumbling stuff in hilarious Konglish.

When one of the various grotesque enemies touches Hard Head, he gets stripped of his overalls, but other than Arthur in Ghouls 'n Ghosts, he doesn't even keep his undies and goes on running around completely naked. Seems SunA's got a thing for male nudity in their games. The function of the bubble gun has been completely changed. Enemies can't be enclosed in the bubbles anymore, instead it can be upgraded for various kinds of ammo. New are the club and morning star melee weapons, which are significantly more effective, but their upgrades wear off after a while. Hard Head can also find a pair of wings, that make him able to slowly float downwards when the jump button is mashed in mid-air.

The eight stages almost completely consist of genre staples, like a mountain stage, a jungle stage, and so on. Only the last one breaks ranks, a stage taking place in front of chinese palaces and temples that ends in front of a gate with Mao Zedong's picture. Maybe it's supposed to mean communism is the devil, or something like that. Scrolling is handled like in a typical brawler, so often all enemies on screen need to be beaten before the player can go on. Every stage ends with a boss fight, but all of the bosses get recycled for a second time, not even the final boss is unique.

Two player co-op mode is included as well, but it is not quite as engaging as in the first game, as both players don't interact directly, anymore.

Quick Info:

Developer:

SunA

Publisher:

SunA

Genre:

Platforming


Hard Head 2 (Arcade)

Hard Head 2 (Arcade)

Hard Head 2 (Arcade)



Brick Zone - Arcade (1992)

Brick Zone is another Break Out clone, but at least it's wildly inventive with the concept. The blocks come in all kinds of weird shapes, and there are special elements like doors with arrows that only let balls pass in one direction. Among the many different bonus items that drop down from deleted blocks are numbers and letters, which pieced together after the strings appearing on screen may reward or deduct points, or even clear a round early.

Many stages are populated by weird creatures, but they're just obstacles and not a real threat. The same goes not for the bosses, which can grab the paddle and thus make it unable to catch the ball. They also take far too many hits to defeat, but damage is signified by their eyes getting pierced out - ouch!

Other than the caveman in SunA's first game Goindol, the little guy at the top is just there for decoration. When a stage is completed, a woman in a dress comes out of the door and gives him a kiss. The game also uses renditions of famous paintings or statues for several of its backgrounds, once again including a couple Gynoids.

Quick Info:

Developer:

SunA

Publisher:

SunA

Genre:

Breakout




격투 (Gyeoktu) / Best of Best - Arcade (1994)

This would be a typical early Street Fighter clone if it wasn't for the good old SunA wackyness. Eight combatants come to this turney to find out who is the best of the best in the world. Like in many Korean fighting games at the time, there is no boss, nor any hidden characters. Each character has its own stage, but the same musical tunes are played in each of them. Get ready to fight to the rythm of Lambada and celebrate your victory with the Ode to Joy.

Best of Best could be considered one of the better early to mid 90s, because at least its controllable and good fun for a few minutes. For competition, it's completely useless, though. Cheap tactics are always the easiest way to victory and some special moves, called "Arts of Sure Killing", have simply ridiculous priorities. Worst are the projectiles, who not only leave the characters invulnerable throughout the animation, but make it harmful to even touch their body.

But its clear from the beginning, anyway, that Best of Best is a pure party game. The characters are funny by themselves for being ridiculous stereotypes, but the animations are what makes this game so hilarious. Instead of just dizzying after consequtive hits, the fighters hold their balls in pain or crawl on the floor, trying to escape their tormentor. The special moves do their part as well: Punk Tango fuels his ramming attack with fire farts, while Arab stereotype Alli scales himself into a pixellated mess, and Rambo... erm, Scott swings his deadly ammunition belt.

For some reason the player gets to chose a new character before every fight, even after winning a battle.

Quick Info:

Developer:

SunA

Publisher:

SunA

Genre:

Fighting


Best of Best (Arcade)



퀴즈6000아카데미 (SunA Quiz 6000 Academy) - Arcade (1994)

This is one of the craziest quiz games ever. The players move along a board that symbolizes their school career, and the quiz itself is represented as exams, with scores and all. One of the four player characters is Son Goku, among the teachers are a drunk clown and ET, and the questions range from Korean literature history to which super hero cannot fly. All the while a weird troll dances around behind the sheet of paper the questions are written on, and everyone on screen acts just wacky.

Despite the game being obviously targeted at kids, its not short on sexual allusions and "sexy" artwork.

Quick Info:

Developer:

SunA

Publisher:

SunA

Genre:

Quiz




프랙챔피온 (Flag Champion) - Arcade (1995)

업다운챔피온 (Up Down Champion) - Arcade (1995)

A pair of very simplistic games. The player just has to raise or lower levers that represent the flags according to the commando from the game. The opponents and backgrounds are all cultural stereotypes from various countries of the world.

Quick Info:

Developer:

SunA

Publisher:

SunA

Genre:

Micro Game




백스트리스사커 (Back Street Soccer) - Arcade (1996)

This arcade soccer game was SunA's first and only sports title. After selecting between 14 teams (whith visually well defined but strangely similar-looking team members), one or two players proceed to a match on the scrapyard. The game has a very arcade feel to it, with practically no rules, but several ball-on-fire special moves.

Quick Info:

Developer:

SunA

Publisher:

SunA

Genre:

Sports




울트라바룬 (Ultra Balloon) - Arcade (1996)

A Bubble Bobble clone, as shameless as it is crazy. This game has its own article here on Hardcore Gaming 101.

Quick Info:

Developer:

SunA

Publisher:

SunA

Genre:

Action: Single Screen




탱고탱고 (Tango Tango) - Arcade (1998)

Tango Tango (Arcade)

A cross between Puyo Puyo and Columns.

Quick Info:

Developer:

SunA

Publisher:

SunA

Genre:

Puzzle


Tango Tango (Arcade)


위너라인 (Winner Line) - Arcade (1999)

Winner Line (Arcade)

Simple jigsaw-type puzzle game.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Dooyong

Publisher:

Dooyong

Genre:

Puzzle



파이프라인 (Pipeline) - Arcade (1999)

Pipeline (Arcade)

Suna's last "proper" video game was a mere combination of Winner Line with what was basically Tango Tango as a bonus game.

Quick Info:

Developer:

SunA

Publisher:

SunA

Genre:

Puzzle


Pipeline (Arcade)


Redemption games - Arcade (1997-2005)

Gotopia (Arcade)

During Their final years, SunA only survived as a manufacturer of gambling machines. Most common were variants on GoStop, a Korean card game played with cards similar to Japanese Hanafuda, but they also made a number of slot machine type games.

Hot Tlax (Arcade)


References
1. http://www.exportcenter.go.kr/ghn/consult_search/consult_regi_view_pop.jsp?memberid=ptkyoo
2. We Corporation
3. http://zetagundam.egloos.com/3649798
4. http://www.arcade-museum.com/game_detail.php?game_id=9370
5. Wooroemae.com


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