Evercade Game Spotlight: Mysterious Stones (Technos Arcade 1)
Technos Japan is a company best known for its Double Dragon and Kunio-kun series of urban street brawlers, but over the years they’ve experimented with a variety of different types of game. There’s a lovely cross-section of these available on the Technos Arcade 1 cartridge for Evercade, and one of the most interesting to many fans is Mysterious Stones. So that’s the subject of today’s Evercade Game Spotlight!
Mysterious Stones was first released in November of 1984, and there are a couple of variants out there in the wild. The version we have on Evercade is the slightly later version that was translated to English for worldwide release, which refers to the game’s hero as “Dr. John”; earlier Japan-only incarnations named him “Dr. Kick”, for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who has played the game — or read this rather charming comic that promoted the game on its original release.
Mysterious Stones is, mechanically speaking, a follow-up to a Technos Japan arcade game from 1983 known as Eggs or Scrambled Egg, depending on the territory you were playing it in. (The two versions also had slightly different graphics, but they were fundamentally the same game underneath.) In Scrambled Egg (as we shall refer to it hereafter), you take on the role of a cute character tasked with kicking eggs around the stage until they hatch and reveal chicks. When the chicks are fully free of their eggs, you have to kick them off the screen. All the while you’re doing this, there are several enemies moving around the screen, which you must either avoid or temporarily incapacitate by rolling an egg over them.
While Scrambled Egg unfolded on a single screen at a time, tasking players with clearing the entire screen before moving on to the next stage, Mysterious Stones transplants the basic mechanics into a much larger map, with each room in the map featuring an arrangement of distinctly egg-shaped stones, some of which contain treasure, some of which contain helpful items, and others of which contain hazards. Your aim in each stage of Mysterious Stones is not to clear each screen, but rather to find a route to the map’s main treasure room, recover a particularly valuable treasure and then escape again. Dr. John will then have his find appraised, with bonus points on offer if you chose wisely, and then it’s off to a new mysterious ancient building to do the whole thing again.
Conceptually, it’s fairly simple, then; where Mysterious Stones trips a few people up is the sheer pace at which everything moves. Each room has plenty of enemies to contend with as well as the arrangement of the titular stones, though thankfully Dr. John can do more than just kick: he also has a gun with which he can shoot most (though not all) of his foes, and some of the stones (the ones that flash when cracked) sometimes contain allied spirits that will distract or even defeat enemies while he continues to go about his business in the room. (They can also contain enemies, too, so watch out.)
It’s also worth noting that the kick can be used to defeat some enemies, though timing is crucial given its miniscule range.
One of the things to be most aware of when playing Mysterious Stones is each room’s tendency to explode into a boiling pit of lava at a moment’s notice. You’ll be given a few seconds of advance warning for this by the screen shaking and the music going all dramatic, but once the process begins you’ll want to keep to the very sides of the room to ensure you stay safe, and preferably escape through one of the open doors as soon as possible!
In other rooms, you won’t be able to open the doors until you reveal a mischievous spirit hiding within one of the stones who is holding the key within its own body. Recovering the key is a simple matter of shooting the spirit to knock the key out of it, but its rapid movement and the maze-like arrangement of the rooms can make this tricky — particularly if there are still enemies wandering around, so take care.
The rooms in Mysterious Stones’ levels do follow a set layout — though note that leaving one room on the left doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll appear in the new one on the right, thanks to the passages that connect rooms.
When you’re just starting out, it pays to make a quick and dirty map of the levels so you can quickly make your way to the treasure room and escape again; once you’re a little more confident doing that, you can take a bit more time to secure some additional points from the treasures secreted in the stones. So long as you make it back to Dr. John’s transportation at the beginning of each stage before 8AM on the clock in the lower-left of the screen, you can snag as many goodies as you like along the way.
There are a surprising number of secrets hidden along the way, too, so if you’re feeling adventurous, be sure to give various objects a kick. For example, on the very first screen, if you give the statue near the starting point a good boot, it’ll helpfully inform you the quickest route to the first stage’s treasure room, allowing you to make a bee-line for the shiniest of shiny things.
In many respects, Mysterious Stones is considerably more complex than most other arcade games for the time, feeling much more like something that would have been seen on home consoles a few years later. Well, now it is a home console and handheld game thanks to the Evercade VS and handhelds — so you can explore it to your heart’s content without having to worry about pocket change!
With over 260 games available