Wednesday 21 December 2022

Missed Classic 117: Oseong-gwa Haneum (1993) - Introduction

 Written by Morpheus Kitami

Advertisement, note the cost 33,000 SK Won, or $25 USD, for comparison, new games for the Sega Saturn would cost around 74,000 SK Won

Today is an interesting bit of history, its the 29th anniversary of Oseong-gwa Haneum, the title I'm about to play. Well, its being uploaded on the 29th anniversary of the game I'm about to play, parts of this were written in November.

As someone who spends time looking up Japanese media I sometimes find myself looking at titles made in other Asian countries. Those of you who are Jackie Chan fans might be aware that he starred in an adaptation of City Hunter, a manga about a Japanese private eye with a magnum revolver and a "magnum revolver". A Hong Kong film starring mostly Hong Kong actors against a product of distinctly Japanese origin. Others, with an eye more towards Asian "trash" cinema, might be aware of Japanese actress and martial artist Yukari Oshima, who starred in Hong Kong films Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (itself another manga adaptation) as a pretty boy sadist and as an exceedingly cruel woman in Angels*. Before becoming what Wikipedia calls the "female Jackie Chan of the Philippines". In short, a lot of people and ideas bouncing around between the more open societies of eastern Asian. 

*AKA, Iron Angels, Fighting Madam, and Midnight Angels. Or Midnite Angels as my copy of the third film says. Yeah, there are three of them. Funny thing is, all these titles seem to be wrong, it should be called something along the lines of "Action Angels". All this for some stupid Hong Kong knockoff of Charlie's Angels.

Which brings us to Korea, a country I have never held much interest in compared to its neighbors, be it across land in China, or across the sea in Japan. I should clarify I'm always referring to South Korea, as North Korea has no real media to speak of beyond propaganda, some made by natives, some by those who have been kidnapped, and the rare nutjob who defected there...for some reason. This isn't because I necessarily view it is a right or just, both countries are nutty as hell, just that I'm lazy.

Nevertheless, Korea is an interesting country with many, many interesting things about it. Did you know that until recently, they used Chinese characters as their primary writing system? Their current writing system is actually one of the most modern alphabets on the planet, with it having been made in the 15th century and only used properly in the 20th. Its also the most logical of the Chinese-derived writing systems, as each character is made solely from the sounds the word should have, as opposed to how in Chinese you have things like "go" "cliff" "ten" "eye" that relate in no way to the finished character of circulation.

The history of Asian personal computers outside of Japan is a mildly interesting thing. Unlike other countries we've seen, even in passing, places like Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea generally didn't have much in the ways of home-grown computers, instead having a mix of Japanese and American computers that used Korean writing. Gambling was conflated with gaming until about 1984, something I find I can't actually blame them for in retrospect. There are a lot of "gaming" parlors where I live, not to mention how predatory Asian MMOs tend to be. Another factor was that copyright was non-existent for computer software until 1987. So everything just sort of stolen from foreign countries more so than usual. Bear in mind what kind of games that would be back in the olden days.

This seems funny to me, because while it isn't obvious today, back in the day the differences between the two Koreas was more a matter of who was backing who rather than any kind of ethics or concern about human rights. South Korea today is generally better than North Korea since you won't starve...probably. For every statement that Japan is a cyberpunk dystopia, and our own countries for that matter, Korea is about ten times worse. For instance all games sold in Korea need to be sent to the ratings board, and you need to pay them. This includes some random indie game only sold through Steam or something. And while I can't seem to find an actual source, since search in the year of our Lord 2022 is hot garbage, but this applied, and possibly still does, to random schmucks releasing freeware games. 

Historical backdrop aside, today's title is interesting, because while developer A+ isn't credited for having the first Korean adventure game, this seems to be the first Korean adventure game. Beyond all those obscure '80s games I have absolutely no way of playing, and can't find much on, this does seem to be true. Even then I could only find barely existing ports of Japanese adventures. They are credited for the first Korean JRPG, though this one is known to be false.

Finally, the game, 오성과 한음, commonly transliterated as Oseong-gwa Haneum, in proper English, Ohsung and Han-yin. According to people with more interest in Korean culture and history than myself, is a 1500s Korean folk tale about a pair of brother scholars who had quite the mischievous childhood. According to what I could find, seems to only exist before this as a 1980s film...which according to Yandex Translate, has among its unimportant actors, has, Binary Number (apparently famous enough for an article!), Male Crystal, Heart disease, Tattoo Billion, Heterogeneity [sic?], Crude Oil and Rigid rod. (Google translate is slightly better, but still) Something tells me this probably has no real folkloric basis, but I'm not the person to ask.

Everyone online compares it to Gobliins, and better yet, says that the game is entirely playable without an understanding of the language. Except there might be some cultural issues, but that sounds like a better deal than I might get elsewhere. Reception splits between apparently awful and fun.

I guess this means the guy on the left is Oseung and the guy on the right is Haneum, but heck if I know

The title's nice, it shows the two lads moving a circle and a block. It does reveal that this game goes from being a Gobliins-clone to a Gobliins lawsuit, as I can tell these guys occasionally have the same faces as the original cast. It's kind of weird because most of the time it seems like they drew their own stuff. I will note that, from my own experience drawing this sort of thing that if you want to have the same rough kind of face structure as the goblins did, you don't have a lot of options on that scale. If a face is about 8-10 pixels wide and you want eyes with a central black pupil surrounded by white eyeball, you don't have much in the ways of options. I'm less forgiving of the teeth. We'll see what else they knocked off, since it seems like they did considerable work on their own, and I'm not the Korean legal system.

Also, Roland MT-32. Not sure how the hell that made it to Korea, but I appreciate it. I appreciate it a lot.

Make up your own translation of what this says, 10 CAPs for the best choice

There's a long intro sequence I don't think I can show you a lot of. See, back in the olden days, a lot of people were okay with showing children in a state of innocence. Trying to find the words that aren't flagged as being related to certain kinds of unsavory content. It's not something unique to Asia, people just didn't realize there were people who don't find innocence, innocent as much as appealing. As such, there's a lot of art before then where children are in that state of innocent. Or babies in this case. I will say I don't find the idea very logical, especially if the child has a case of...ahem, spraying and praying, that leaves a bigger mess to clean up.

There's a lot of text I don't understand. I tried feeding it into Yandex's image translation service, but it isn't very good. It didn't translate anything here and actually thought it was Japanese. I even doubled the size of the image...let's just say that even if it worked there are some issues with it, which I'll show you a couple of games from now, when I show you Carmen Sandiego in Japan. I note this is a very stereotypically Asian way of showing a flashback, with "brownscale" depictions of things. Basically, these two kids were some kind of great figures, and this is their childhood.

 I know it was easier drawing it this way, but I'm amused that there's only one apple of this otherwise dying tree

Whatever, that's not important. The game unceremoniously dumps me here. Pretty happy area. This local looks like a nice cozy little home, this guy skips around and the music is cheerful. I think I would describe it as obviously Asian, but somewhat akin to a music box kind of tune, though obvious taking advantage of all the instruments MIDI provides. Its interesting, it's the first game with MT-32 sound that actually feels worth it. (and it is indeed better than the regular music)

The objective here is to get...playful goblin, I'm going to call him playful the apple on that tree. To accomplish this task we have a dog on the left that can be dragged out, a wood board hidden cleverly on the bottom, which can be combined with a roll you obviously see. There's a bone in that bowl on the bottom right, and that rooster is on top of a wooden stick.

I find this amusing, because I actually made a knock-off of Gobliiins myself, and I had the same idea of having a puzzle involving a wooden board as a see-saw to move something, except in my case all you had to do was put a board under the object. This set up basically the only real joke of the game, in which the strongman goblin would jump on the board for a moment fruitlessly, only to jump off and the object would move to where he wanted. (I say knock-off because it's 15 minutes long if you don't know what you're doing and it wasn't very good)

At first I was going to bring this up because I found it an amusing coincidence that every game inspired by Goblins does this, but then I got to thinking...hang on...Gobliiins and Gobliins 2 both had that as a puzzle, or at least an element of one. If my memory is correct, in both Goblins games, you had to use two characters at the same time, mostly to move around, in this it's the way to solve the screen outright and in my case, solving one third of the game. The knock-offs don't take advantage of multiple characters, while the originals did. In each case the game does something different with it and yet it all revolves around a specific item. I doubt this was a conscious attempt at mimickry on anyone's part, I just find it interesting. Guess all roads lead to Rome, as they say.

So the way to get past this is to have playful goblin scare the rooster higher onto the tree to take the stick, then poke it again with the stick for some reason I don't understand. Then you bring the see-saw bits together and bring out the dog. It's at this point I actually got stuck, because the game expects you to put the see-saw in a very specific place. Let's talk about this issue.

This game isn't great at showing the depth of things. It looks nice, but your character remains the same size no matter where he is on the screen. Which isn't a problem for Coktel Vision, because generally speaking there isn't intended to by any kind of area where shrinking or enlargening the character sprite comes into play. Meanwhile, this has a fairly large big of background shortening. I.E., in order to look right the character has to be smaller when he's towards the higher end of the screen. He isn't. So basically judging distance is kind of hard. Once I got that down, it was all fairly easy.

Wow, I caught it right in the middle of falling out

I use the bone on the dog and my character automatically moves to the correct position, gets knocked onto the tree branch and eats his apple. Some man yells at him, before his dentures fall out...not sure those existed in Korea in these days, but whatever. Then the screen continues, without any sign of what I should do. Huh. So I do that again, everything happens again except him eating the apple. Eventually, I pick up the stick again and that advances me to the next level. I also get a password, because this operates on a password system.

This is beginning to be a theme, pixel hunting

The next screen isn't really much of a problem. I have to get across the river. If I interact with the tree, playful goblin will climb up it, before climbing back down. This is really just a pixel hunt, I have to get a rock, put that by the big rock next to the river, then use the stick on it and problem solved.

You can understand my confusion only seeing this for a second

Now we have...uh...tall goblin. He doesn't seem to have much in the ways of personality at first, just sometimes looking at himself in a mirror. It's fairly simple switching between the two of them, click on one with any cursor. Now they have to do something in a room with a dude sleeping...because...this must be that pesky cultural issue or something. I dunno. They have to do something. What they have to do is a complete mystery. I guess open the drawers on the right, because the drawers on the left are easy. Playful goblin can open those and he gets a stone. I can use that stone on the other stone...for some reason. The first time I did this I didn't even realize that was what he was doing, I thought he was using his foot on it, to rub off the calluses on his feet or something. I can also pull that piece of loose paper on the right.

I get stuck here for a while. If you're wondering why, it's because the cursors look like this. They're nice, but there's no obvious point at which the player clicks. That's not a problem with the foot, but for using and getting items? Yeah, that's an issue. So you have to hope you hit the right pixel. Because this is imitating Gobliins 2, that means it's not clear which goblin can do what. I manage to pull out a brush, which creates a solution, but now I need to find ink. I think. Trying everything on everything is fun because you have two goblins, you have issues clicking on the right thing, and what space the items are in. I didn't even realize the latter was a concern until I ran out of patience and looked up a long play.

Yeah, turns out using the stone on the other stone makes ink. Place the other stone next to the piece of paper right allows tall goblin to draw on the paper and using the side of the bench, playful goblin wakes up the sleeping man so tall goblin can show his calligraphy. Next screen...

Hang on, this is just the same room from another angle. And that's the first screen outside. Clever, and/or lazy depending on who you ask. I say lazy. It's not obvious what you do here either. Non-verbal games may require more skill in their design work than some people give credit for. I find some little things to do. I can have tall goblin open the cabinet in the upper right, it's stuck so he pulls and pulls before getting knocked on his butt. Hey, a joke, haven't seen one of those in a while. This nets me scissors I can use to open the cabinet on the left, in which there's a cauldron of some sort. Using it causes tall goblin to drop it, and it's another joke, he breaks it. This restarts the level. Okay...

Eventually, I find out that playful goblin can, in order, pee in the vase up there, and pull down yarn and a wicker basket. Character's actions seem to make some sense, playful goblin is a brat, while tall goblin is intelligent and brainy. I'm not sure the significance as to why they can open the doors they have to open. By sheer luck, I discover how to advance through here, have tall goblin use the cauldron with the yarn in his hand...which advances the screen. The loading screen then shows it being broken anyway. I'm not feeling particularly satisfied lately, especially with this, thanks for that, game!

Pixel hunting so hard you have multiple layers of it!

The next screen continues the random events plot. I guess people weren't kidding when they said this was loosely connected. I note that the two goblins have different idle animations. Interesting, but I think that effort could have been better placed in adding said animations to a puzzle. Feels like an autumn wind-swept day. Like it is outside, except that in-game the wind isn't so strong it could flip me over. (not a joke) As to my objective...I'm going to guess I have to go to the vase with the lid on it. Not seeing any reason why they can't climb there. Also, this is an ugly-ass screen. I'm no expert in period graphical software, but that looks like someone used the smear tool. Or used some kind of AI upscaling. Either way it looks awful.

I wasn't seeing a lot of options. Obviously, I should be able to just climb up here, or mess around with one of the vases, but I get nothing. I do find something though, playful goblin takes a leaf and can then pull up a stone. Now what? Surely the leaf doesn't have an actual purpose, and the stone doesn't give me any ideas either. There are a lot of stones here. So I mess around for a bit, until I stumble on the solution, build a stone staircase. No, that's the actual solution. Take 2 stones, including one I found under a leaf, use them to start a stone staircase, and then use the third for a ramp unto the staircase. Then push one of the vases to get a different vase and the screen's solved.

That's a shoe, right? I'm not just crazy, am I?

Aha, an obvious objective! I have to stop this snake from eating the birds. The problem is to do this I have three items, a shoe, a bottle, presumably containing soju*, and the vase I got from the last screen. Tall goblin opens the vase and looks inside, but otherwise nothing obvious springs out to me about the usage of these objects. That drunk man seems to offer nothing and I just can't use anything on the snake or birds. Scratch that, I can have tall goblin use the vase under the snake, which creates a duplicate.

*A Korean liquor akin to vodka, but usually a lower alcohol content and made from rice, yuca and/or sweet potato. A bottle I currently have says it's made from grain, potato and sweet potato. I actually picked up two bottles of the stuff recently, while I don't care for it on its own, mixed flavors are quite tasty, and because of the low alcohol content, mixes quite well.

I note that while the music track each level has been different, they've been mostly along the same lines and it does get slightly annoying. This guy is also making considerable noise. That is very annoying. I don't like turning off sound when I'm reviewing games, though I note more and more I take advantage of a lack of it, but I've been turning it off here.

Let's talk about animation for a second. This is basically the most important part of the game this is imitating. You need animation, and lots of it, otherwise you're just making a game centered around multiple characters. Oseung-gwa Haneum has that, it's just really short and blink if you miss it. Not in the sense that it's running too fast, everything else runs smoothly. No, you just get maybe a couple of seconds of animation and it stops. Which is a problem when you make a puzzle centered around that short animation. I have to pour the bottle of soju into the vase. This is a weird puzzle, because you have to time it just right so playful goblin can pour it in the split second tall goblin takes it off. Why this needed to be a two man job is anyone's guess.

This causes the snake to just look down now. He still makes the noise though. Okay...I need to pour the soju in again. He slowly slides into the vase and tall goblin closes it. The screen doesn't end. Uh...I guess playful goblin is going to take the shoe and throw it at the birds because he's a dick? No, taking the shoe just ends the screen.

Do you understand what it is I just did?

Now this screen is gorgeous, but, uh, what exactly am I doing here? I guess we have this blinding totem pole on the left that I can't yet use, or throw the shoe at. I feel like the developers didn't understand that pixel hunting is supposed to be a bad thing. There's a stick in the cliff on the right...using the same sprite as the last one. This playful goblin can use to tickle the totem pole, which causes it to laugh and then drop its nose...which is a brick-like thing.

The final bit is just complete pixel hunting pointlessness, put the shoe in a random dark spot you have no reason to do so, then poke the dirt above it, then have playful goblin stomp on it for some reason...before finishing it off by putting the nose on top of it. Was that supposed to be a urn? If so, stomping on it seems pretty crappy to me, but what do I know? That's it for now. Next time, things get weird.

Me, having to pixel hunt for the 999th time today

Also, I haven't really gotten a chance to show off these neat little between level screens. Most of the screens have had them and they're generally nice-looking. They feel like the closest the game has gotten so far to acknowledging Gobliiins as being cartoonish and cutesy, outside of it we just get short animations as I've said, and then nothing.

So, score, despite the fact that this is a knock-off and not a Coktel Vision original, Gobliiins got a 48 and Gobliins 2 got a 44. I do not feel majorly higher towards those than Ilmari. Eh, maybe on Gobliins 1's puzzles. Opinions on this game are mixed, between someone who says what's the point of playing it, and someone who actually enjoyed it but didn't think it was the best game ever. Neither of these opinions strike me as particularly deep though, for instance, one person said that there's no reasoning for which goblin does which thing. I don't think that's true, while on occasion there isn't, like with doors, the wide goblin generally does prankster things while the tall goblin does smart things. Or straight-forward/subtle.

This Session: 2 hours

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 20 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.


  1. "Make up your own translation of what this says."

    Day in, day out, they trained in the ancient practice of hard partying, but no matter how much they practiced, the never partied hard enough to gain their masters approval

    "No!" He scolded them time and again. "You wave your hands through the air like you DON'T care! Clearly, you are still caring! You need to party HARDER!"

    1. Oh yeah, and my guess is 35, this looks much more tedious than any of the Gobliiins games.

  2. 41, even with the artwork that was probably stolen pixel for pixel from the Coktel offices.

    1. After a good night's sleep, I'm going to adjust this to 36. Which is probably still high.

    2. Its a very weird case, because there places where the faces are obviously stolen, yet there's considerable original spritework. I wonder if anyone noticed at the time, as I'm not entirely clear if Goblins had a noticeable presence in Korea at the time.

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  4. 39. It *feels* like it lacks the charm of the Coktel Vision originals, and the charm was a big part of what made them slightly above average games.

    1. There's definitely less charm in this one than it the games its ripping off, but that's usually always true. But I see the primary problem in this in that the animations just don't play long enough. They just feel like they're there for a second and then the game continues.

  5. For me, this is not an adventure game, just a puzzle game, and I don't like them very much. And it is a blantant rip off, so, if Goblins 1 got 48, let's say 24 for this one

  6. I'll go for 30, seems lost as to what it wants to do. As for the caption:

    "I don't care what you learned from this Zelda game, around here we don't smash people's pots looking for treasure!"

  7. The colors in this game look pretty bad... and the music is annoying after listening to a few seconds on Youtube.

    If anything, it makes me appreciate the Gobliiins series more (even if each game has around 20% of crazy puzzles that fortunately you can mostly solve by trial and error due to the "stage" system that limits the accessible map to 1-3 screens).

    I played the Woodruff game (which could be called Gobliiins 4) and was not impressed (you couldn't even turn off the voice and had to listen to each dialog with no option to skip it, which was especially infuriating when trying multiple actions).

    I recommend the first 3 Gobliiins game for anyone who has no played them yet. I believe this blog will soon review the third one. Just be aware the first one has an energy bar AND no hotspots whatsoever.

    1. There is indeed overuse of certain colors in this game, unappealing colors, but I will say that the music is slightly better than most Youtube uploads...slightly. The MT-32 does play the same tune as those uploads, and I suspect it will be quite annoying by the end, however.

      As to the Goblins front, I find it somewhat annoying that there actually is a Gobliiins 4, because I note from reading around that Woodruff was originally intended to be Goblins 4 during development. Even if Woodruff is wildly different from the first 3 and probably the 4&5 games too.
      Also, it occurs to me that since Gobliiins is on Amiga and other systems with save states, you can bypass that annoying aspect and the password system. Probably does wonders for it.

    2. Fortunately for many MS-DOS action games (Blues Brothers, Titus the Fox), graphic adventures with terrible action sequences (Operation Stealth) and even graphic adventures with a slow saving/restoring feature, you can use a modified version of DOSBox that allows saving snapshots at any time.

      The one I use is Ykhwong's "DOSBox SVN Daum":

  8. I had heard that Korean had the most "perfect" phonetic alphabet (In the sense of "letters map exactly to phonemes") but didn't know it was such a recent development. Kind of makes sense, though I remember being surprised since ideographic alphabets are so common in the region.

    Coincidentally, I too also recently bought a bottle of soju. Took me a while to figure out what to do with it. I gather in Korea it's typically drunk straight, but drinking neutral spirits straight isn't really my thing. It ended up mixing well with eggnog.