Eojjeonji Joheun Il-i Saenggil Geot Gateun Jeonyeok (which roughly translates to "A Night Where Good Things Are Bound to Happen") is a Korean-made beat-em-up based on the comic book by Myung Jin Lee. The protagonist of the game is a rebellious teenager named Namgoong Gunn. On the way to his new school, where he hopes to forget his rather violent past, he spots a beautiful girl, and immediately afterwards his wallet gets stolen. Following the thief, Gunn gets involved in a struggle against a powerful criminal syndicate.
The basic gameplay system involves standard combination of punches, kicks, and jumps, in a Final Fight-like fashion. However, the game also has an RPG element in that it awards the protagonist experience points for defeating enemies or even simply harming them. At a level-up screen the player can choose to upgrade Gunn's "tech", which allows him to learn new moves such as dashing, grabbing enemies, getting up faster, and others. The player can also choose to upgrade the protagonist's health bar, attack power, and speed.
Review used with permission from Hardcore Gaming 101.
The title is roughly translating into: "A Night Where Good Things Are Bound to Happen", it will be referred to in the following as Eojjeonji...Jeonyeok.
The game was developed by a small studio called TG Entertainment at a time when sidescrolling beat-em-ups where considered dead and 2D games considered dying by the mainstream, Eojjeonji...Jeonyeok was never released outside of South Korea, and it was the last game TG Entertainment got to develop under that label. These are not the best conditions for a game to get burned into the international awareness as a timeless classic, and it wasn't. Heck, it doesn't even have a title that can be spelled out in English in any convenient way (one of its budget releases goes by the subtitle "The Fight", but good luck googling that). At the same time, it even used the license to a Korean comic book series that is reported to have sold more than a million copies. That one originally started in 1992, but got re-released in 2002 because of its constant popularity. Nonetheless, the rampant software piracy for which East Asia is notorious reportedly resulted in the game flopping, despite being played on nearly every other kid's computer in the country.
The shame about all this: in many respects, it may well be one of the best 2D beat-em-ups ever made. It beats about every one of its significantly more famous "competitors" in terms of variety, dynamics and complexity. Not quite so in balancing, but more about that later. The severe problem much more important to point out early is that it doesn't feature a cooperative mode. This great design decision error is really the sole factor that denies the game its exclusive place on the genre throne. Of course, the game is rather story-heavy, and the requirements of the license probably didn't allow the inclusion of a permanent companion in it, but was it really so hard to include a story-free mode as an extra? Quite tragic, just as much as the game's incredibly obscure status.
Now that this shocking revelation is out of the way, let's get into details. There are a lot of story sequences between stages, but it feels put together rather loosely. After all, it's adapted from an episodic comic book that needed to enclose its volumes to some degree. Namgoong Gunn, the hero of the story, is on the way to his new high school, as he just transfered to put his recent history of violence behind himself. In the subway, just as he spots his future love interest, his wallet gets stolen by a pickpocket, and he has to follow the evildoer. As it turns out, that one is tied to an organized crime syndicate, giving Gunn no choice but to start fighting again. Most of the following stages very coarsely follow the events of the comic books, with the exception of three adjoined chapters giving light to Gunn's past, which is only alluded to in the original.
Upon the start of the game (and without a manual), one could easily come to dismiss it as a boring, typical Final Fight clone. After a few pages of story, with redrawn images by the original comic's author, we find ourselves walking through urban streets beating up some punks. The only means of attack seem to be a series of punching moves, as well as a kick-combo, and two similar jump attacks. There's no running, and the walking speed is pretty slow.
Until you reach the end of the first short substage, that is. We find ourselves on a level-up screen, with quite a lot of things to upgrade, but the only one that is affordable with the experience points gained by now is the first tech upgrade. Now things start to get interesting. All of a sudden you can dash and run, both combined with their own attacks, grab enemies for a decent selection of grapple moves and get-up attacks after beaten down. Maybe most importantly, it's even possible to crouch down to avoid hits (which can also be paired with counter attacks later). The real fun begins when we drive enemies in the corner of the screen, since there's a ton of possibilities for juggles and ground hits. There aren't many beat-em-ups that can even approximately rival Gunn's repertoire, other than Double Dragon Advance and maybe the later IGS games, and once fully upgraded to level 4, the move list puts most fighting game characters to shame.
When that level is ever reached, that is. Tech is not the only stat waiting to be upgraded - we get to choose between health bar extensions, attack power enhancements, speed ups, and we even have to buy health regeneration and credits with our hard-earned experience points, as there are no healing items during the stages. And choosing wisely is an absolute necessity, because this game is hard. In later stages, it's not unusual to get the initial health bar depleted to nothing in two or three hits, which is pretty deadly even with your maximum health at five bars. Enemies react a bit slowly, and wait quite a bit before attacking, which could be judged as weak AI, but it is really the only semblance of balance to some degree. As soon as enemies do attack, they start ganging up on Gunn, and in later stages, they're usually paired up to complement each other's weaknesses.
That said, Eojjeonji... Jeonyeok's difficulty even becomes unfair during the later half of the game's nine stages, with sections that drag on pretty long - the worst one with a boss right at the end, without a checkpoint in between. A defeat always results in a restart at the last checkpoint, and while the stats can be upgraded in-between, the same is not true for health recovery. This makes leveling even more strategic, as it practically forces the player to conserve health bar upgrades, which also fully restore your life, for these insane stages. To this day, this author highly doubts the last boss is at all beatable without exploiting a glitched infinite combo. The only other critique left about the gameplay could be the relatively event-less stages, devoid of any items or traps.
The characters are drawn and animated well, though Gunn's standard walking cycle looks a little odd. The backgrounds show beautiful pixel art most of the time, but there's not much exciting stuff to see, as most stages are built on genre staples, like city streets, forests, schoolyards, parks, bars, etc., and there's not much going on in the backgrounds. What stands out as eye-catchingis the constant advertisement for Ragnarok, which is not yet the popular MMORPG, but rather the then-latest comic series of the same author (which said MMORPG is very loosely based on). Most enemies are rather cliched, as well, representing themselves as your common selection of punks and thugs. However, we also get the chance to beat up some school girls (yeah, Gunn is a real hero). All in all, the collection of about 20 enemy types is not too bad, but also not very impressive. This is not counting strict palette swaps, but some are rather samey, nonetheless. The cutscenes are all drawn very well and displayed in 640x480 resolution. They constitute a serious update compared to the original comic's black & white drawings, but in the end, they're just static images, with a lot of Korean text that won't be of any use to most Western players.
Musically, the game is awesome. It's typical for 90s digitized CD soundtracks, but most tracks (aside from the menus) do a very good job to get you hyped up for the action. The sound effects deliver their message, as well, though they are plagued by that genre-typical illness of becoming extremely repetitive over the course of the game.
Eojjeonji... Jeonyeok is the kind of entity the expression "it's a shame" was made for. It's a shame that most of the gaming world didn't even hear of its existence, it's a shame that one of the potentially best beat 'em up games was refused a multiplayer mode, and it's a crying shame that its underwhelming commercial success should cause TG Entertainment to fold, leaving the developers to produce its successor under sub-optimal conditions. But more of that in the following chapter...
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