The Enigmatic Populist Legacy of Eric and the Floaters

This short article appeared in an issue of Incredibly Strange Games as part of an evening of Strange Games held on March 25th, 2017 at Seattle’s Fuse Box.

“We’ll call it ‘Eric and the Floaters.'”
“It has a perfectly good name as it is, sir, I mean it says what it does on the tin.”
“No. ‘Eric…and the Floaters.'”
“But sir–”
“Eric. And. The. Floaters.”

From these humble roots, early 1980s Westerners were introduced to the unforgettable world of Eric and the Floaters.

In 1993, Hudson Soft duct-taped two PC-Engines together to demo one of the first games for HDTV and–just for good measure–made it a ten player version of Eric and the Floaters.

Or as everyone else knows it, Bomberman.

This version is shrouded in mystery: was it ever released, what kind of computer existed that acted as the duct tape between the two machines, was this the origin of the PCFX? Whatever the case, it wasn’t made available to the public until mid-1996 and left behind its TurboGrafxian roots when it was released as Saturn Bomberman.

It requires two multi-taps and ten controllers to reach its full potential. It’s a confusing mess of wires and cursing and “which one am I?” But at its heart, it’s Bomberman and it’s really good. Fan-service lets you select non-Bombermen (non-Erics?) and play as Adventure Island’s Master Higgins or Bonk or some dudes from the RPG epic series Far East of Eden. It swaps out dinosaurs for the kangaroos featured in the sublime PC-Engine Bomberman ’94 but whatever.

It’s Strange because of its audacity. Ten players is insane. Ten players is about two too many, and Hudson knew this. The best maps are only playable by eight or fewer. But there’s no denying this is a great game and that it preserves the spirit of Bomberman. There’s a sprawling solo campaign, but who wants to play that? This is polished 2D goodness with an excellent balance of power-ups, on a variety of maps (each with their own gimmicks).

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