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A History of Korean Gaming

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FEW:

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FE (Future Entertainment) /
FEW (Future Entertainment World 퓨처엔터테인먼트월드)

Founded:

November 1995

Status:

taken over by eSofnet (May 2000)

Key People:

정봉수 Jeong Bongsu:
President

Website:

none


Just like Sonnori and YeonWoo Soft, FE was also founded by former Softry developers who were dissatisfied with the working conditions there. While some of their games, especially the Yahwa series, were rather popular among critics and gamers, the company was almost infamous for cranking out game after game in record time—18 games in roughly 3 years speak a clear message.

In 1997 FE teamed up with publisher Ungjin Media, which stayed their constant partners for over a year1. The company had another cooperation with the Japanese development team Baroque, whose action RPG Midgard was localized by FEW, which was the revised company name by then2.

In late 1999 Wise HiCom and FEW announced that they'd be working together under a new brand called SofTop3. Their first combined project was the MMORPG Dragon Raja, which FEW was working on since 19984. However, soon after the foundation of eSofnet as the successor to HiCom in December 1999, FEW was assimilated by them as a whole (May 2000)5.


Games

將軍 (장군 / Janggun) - IBM PC (May 1996)

Robots that carry the names of historic Korean generals are the heroes of this SRPG, so it doesn't surprise that the title of the game translates to generals. The enemies—of course—have Japanese names. Although the units are designed like mechas, they are not presented as manned but rather having a life on their own.

The game starts in simulation mode, where robots can be modified and ressources invested into new body parts for them. After a rather lengthy briefing the actuall mission starts, which takes the form of a rather dull and boring tactical battle. Somehow this part of the game doesn't transport the feeling one has much control over the outcome of the battle, but maybe the mechanics just very complicated.

The overview map screen looks very functional without any unnecessary embellishment, but the robots in their attack animations attest competent pixel art craft. Too bad that it should remain rarely employed, as for most of their future games, FEW shifted to cheap prerendered graphics.

Quick Info:

Developer:

FE

Publisher:

Multi-City

Genre:

Strategy

Theme:

Mechas




夜話 (야화 / Yahwa) - IBM PC, Windows (October 1996)

Cover

The simulation portion in this game is even more complex than in FEW's first work Janggun, but that shouldn't deceive from the fact that all the planning and scheming as the boss of an underground mob always culmulates in mass brawls with other super deformed gangsters. Those play out just like a beltscrolling beat 'em up with bad controls, only that it doesn't scroll and instead takes place on seperate screens.

Despite the somewhat sketchy quality, Yahwa sold 12,000 copies in just the first month6, a big success for a Korean game at the time.

Quick Info:

Developer:

FE

Publisher:

Multi-City

Genre:

Simulation
Beat-'em-Up


Yahwa(IBM PC)

Yahwa(IBM PC)



天上小魔英雄傳 (천상소마영웅전 / Cheonsang Soma Yeongung-jeon) - IBM PC, Windows (November 1996)

Cover

An SRPG that comes with three executables: One for DOS, a Windowed one and one for DirectX. However, all of them are so hopelessly bugged that it's quite impossible to run the game on a modern system.

Advertisement

Quick Info:

Developer:

FE

Publisher:

Multi-City

Genre:

Strategy
RPG

Theme:

Fantasy


Cheonsang Soma Yeongung-jeon (IBM PC)

Cheonsang Soma Yeongung-jeon (IBM PC)

Artwork



파이터~타클라마하칸 사막편 (Fighter: Taklamakan Samak-pyeon) - IBM PC (January 1997)

FE's only 1-on-1 fighter is also one of the most rare of their games. Surprisingly, considering that it was released closely after their big success with Yahwa and got a lot of good press.

As the title vaguely suggests, the game takes place around the ruins of a lost civilization in the Taklamakan Desert in central Asia. 12 pre-rendered combatants, training and team battle modes make this a more wholesome package than most contemporary Korean fighting games. According to the press release, the combo system allows for up to 12 connected hits.

Quick Info:

Developer:

FE

Publisher:

Multi-City

Genre:

Fighting


Fighter (IBM PC)

Fighter (IBM PC)



Tokyo 夜話 (토쿄야화 / Tokyo Yahwa) - Windows (September 1997)

In Tokyo Yahwa the player takes the role of one of two Korean immigrants surviving through the tough everyday life at a Japanese highschool in the 70s. The game was advertised as an action RPG, but that might be slightly misleading. Yes, there is a leveling system and awfully long dialogue in between fights, but it still feels more like a brawler with... a level system and awfully long dialogue in between fights.

The two player characters play out exactly the same and also have the same dialgue text, so the choice between them is purely cosmetic. There's a number of different attacks, the heroes can dash, jump kick and head butt enemies. Still, like Yahwa, the controls just don't feel quite right.

Quick Info:

Developer:

FEW

Publisher:

Woongjin Medis

Genre:

Beat-'em-Up


Tokyo Yahwa (Windows)

Tokyo Yahwa (Windows)



덩키 (Dunky) - Windows (1997)

Advertisement

Dunky is a basketball coach simulation, and also very rare.

Quick Info:

Developer:

FEW

Publisher:

Woongjin Media

Genre:

Simulation
Sports


Dunky (Windows)

Dunky (Windows)



부킹맨~맨앤우먼 (Booking Man: Man & Woman) - Windows (October 1997)

Cover

Man & Woman is the revealing title of this game where everything revolves around the interaction with the other sex. Gameplay switches between two parts. A "life simulation" one where the protagonist of choice has to hone his skills and get various jobs, all of which of course is meant as a preparation for the dating, which takes the form of a visual novel. Actually, this part feels rather disconnected from the rest, as the developed stats don't seem to have much influence here, other from the obvious obstacles that are posed by exhaustion and a lack of money, both of which make it impossible to do anything at all. An exhausted character can't even take the subway home, so he has to wait for the bus, as little sense as that makes.

Every once in a while the player is faced with a decision, like when there's two possible women to hook up with at a given time, but those occasions are rare and usually the only choice is to either show up to a date or don't. The latter effectively ends the romance and is much easier to pull off, as this game is huge. There are eight big areas with a ton of shops, cafes and bars, sometimes a vague knowledge of Seoul's topography is required to find a meeting place (the town is not an exact replica, but sometimes it's necessary to associate a town district with the right subway stop and such). If not following the dialogue closely, it's easy to miss the next appointment, especially since the text engine is a bit glitchy and sometimes just skips the last line in a dialogue, which typically tends to hold the most important information.

There's tons and tons of text, pushing the language barrier up to a maximum. Over the course of four game years, it's possible to meet more than 20 possible dating partners. There's four guys to chose from in the beginning, but they're all the same character, and he's not very likeable. Considering the premise of the game is to change women like others change their closes, that's probably a given, though.

Concerning the sex scenes, the game is quite daring for a Korean game, although the game has no content that would warrant an 18-and-up rating in most European countries. The game has the habit of presenting a convenient way for the protagonist to drop out of the relationship and blame the woman, making him free for the next target. Otherwise the writing actually isn't that bad most of the time, and there's really, really much of it too keep one occupied, if only one wasn't forced to play a total dick. (But then again, it would be hardly justifiable otherwise to have the protagonists change girlfriends on a monthly basis.)

Advertisement

Quick Info:

Developer:

FEW

Publisher:

Woongjin Media

Genre:

Interactive Novel
Life Simulation


Booking Man: Man & Woman (Windows)

Booking Man: Man & Woman (Windows)

Booking Man: Man & Woman (Windows)

Booking Man: Man & Woman (Windows)



北命 (북명 / Bungmyeong) - Windows (November 1997)

Cover

Bungmyeong takes place in ancient China and tells the story of the adopted son of two legendary swords fighters, who leaves their secluded home in the mountains to discover his true origins. Despite being developed in Korea, the game conveys the typical Chinese Wuxia atmosphere quite well with its oriental music and a graphics style that would look hideous in most other contexts with its low-end plastic doll render sprites, but here it just fits together perfectly.

Gameplay follows the standard Final Fantasy formula with random battles and ATB combat, although not without some unique twists. There's a cryptic healing item system based on a characters Yin/Yang alignment and more elaborate combat placement settings than is usual for the genre. Dungeons tend to be a bit on the dull side, with lots of same looking rooms and hallways.

The game is almost comically incompletable: Very early on, it just stops unlocking new areas and instead respawns the same boss over again each time his lair is entered.

Quick Info:

Developer:

FEW

Publisher:

Woongjin Media

Genre:

RPG

Theme:

Fantasy: Far East


Bungmyeong (Windows)

Bungmyeong (Windows)



天上小魔英雄傳 II (천상소마영웅전 II / Cheonsang Soma Yeongung-jeon II) - Windows (December 1997)

Cover

Contrary to the first game in the series, the sequel uses pre-rendered graphics like FEW's other games.

Quick Info:

Developer:

FEW

Publisher:

Woongjin Media

Genre:

Strategy
RPG

Theme:

Fantasy


Cheonsang Soma Yeongung-jeon II (Windows)

Cheonsang Soma Yeongung-jeon II (Windows)



블러디 아리아 (Bloody Aria) - Windows (December 1997)

Budget Release Cover

Bloody Aria is the first game by FEW that uses real time polygon models. But only for the characters, for the backgrounds the game relies on fixed camera angles and prerendered images like Resident Evil. Apparently it is more action-oriented, though, it has been compared to Nightmare Creatures.

The player assumes the role of a knight in shining armor, who infiltrates an 18th century romanian castle. With the horror theme and that title it seems a bit ironic that the game doesn't display any blood at all.

Unfortunately, Bloody Aria is one of those games that really don't like to run modern computers or virtual machines, because it requires both Windows 95/98 and Direct X.

Artwork

Quick Info:

Developer:

FEW

Publisher:

Woongjin Media

Genre:

Action
Adventure

Theme:

Fantasy


Bloody Aria (Windows)

Bloody Aria (Windows)



References
1. Game Com 6/1997, page 34
2. PC Champ 4/1998, page 134
3. PC Champ 10/1998, page 149
4. PC Power Zine 2/2000, page 194
5. eSofnet company history (archived)
6. PC Champ 11/1996, page263


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FEW:

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