Jetto, Jetto, Jetto-man!
I was at the perfect age when Mighty Morphin Power Rangers hit the scene. I absolutely ate it up like almost every kid my age. Then my sister made fun of me for watching it so hard that I actually became too ashamed to tune in. Whenever I bring this up to her, she just says, “you’re welcome.” Older sisters suck.
I don’t remember what lead me to watch Choujin Sentai Jetman. It was Toei’s 15th entry in the Super Sentai series and was the one right before Kyouryuu Sentai Zyuranger: the series that was adapted into Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. I was learning Japanese, and for some reason, I was curious about Tokusatsu, so I just grabbed the series. I didn’t make it through its 50-some-odd episodes, but I watched a significant chunk and don’t regret it. That is one weird damned show.
Anyway, there was a Famicom game based on it, and while I wasn’t expecting much, I had to have it. It definitely wasn’t much.
Choujin Sentai Jetman translates to “bird-person squadron Jetman,” which I find rather amusing since it implies that its members are both birds and jets. The story of the show is that a space station explodes while trying to make super-soldiers, and random people in Japan are hit with “birdonic waves.” The group behind Jetman decide to just recruit these people to help save the world from aliens, and understandably, two of the five don’t even want to be there.
From there, if you’re familiar with the Power Rangers formula, it isn’t much different here. The bad guys, who look like they’re from a Visual Kei band, create monsters to terrorize Japan, and the bird-people jet-men show up to deal with them. They fight their goons, then they fight the monster, then the monster grows so they summon their robot and fight while causing extraordinary collateral damage.
What I loved about Choujin Sentai Jetman was how weird it was. The monsters were things like a bus or a camera, and then there was my favorite: an evil cup of instant ramen. It had a love triangle, for some reason, and the lead guy never stops pining for his dead love, who later turns out to be alive or something.
None of this is translated into the game, but love triangles are a little advanced for the Famicom. Actually, there isn’t much plot represented within the game at all. That would probably take effort, which I don’t think the team at Natsume cared to invest in. Monsters from the show make appearances as bosses, but I don’t really think their levels reflect the episodes they’re from. Granted, it’s been ten years since I watched the show, but I mostly remember the battles happening in quarries and public parks.
Each of the five levels has two parts: a really boring sidescroller and a very crappy fighting game. You select from the five bird-jets, each using their weapons from the show. Blue Swallow and White Swan have bird blasters. Black Condor and Red Eagle have swords, and Yellow Owl has the gauntlet. Yellow Owl is probably the best, but in the show he’s the comic relief character. No one wants to play the comic relief character. They want to play as Gai, the Black Condor, because he smokes and rides a motorcycle. He’s like Japanese Wolverine.
I want to be clear: Choujin Sentai Jetman isn’t strictly bad; it’s just extremely low-effort. The sidescrolling sections are so basic. The only real difference between them is the odd enemy that shows up in some levels but not others. They only scroll horizontally; there isn’t even a token elevator section. It plays like Shatterhand with none of its redeeming qualities.
The boss battles are equally as interchangeable but twice as bullshit. Each boss is largely the same, but to keep you guessing, sometimes they throw two punches in a row, and other times they throw three punches. You have a special bar that charges over time and is the real key to beating the bosses, but you can’t just back off and wait for it to charge, or it’ll be death by chip damage. It really comes down to trying to do more damage than the enemy.
If you’re going to die, it’s probably going to be during the boss battles. That sucks, because if you die during the sidescroller sections, you switch to another ranger and start from the checkpoint, but if you lose to the boss, you start the whole level over again. The levels are stupid-short, so it’s not the end of the world, but when you just want to learn the boss battle, it’s frustrating that you have to do the whole level again.
After you beat the five initial levels, you’re sent to the end game, which plays out basically the same as any normal level. The whole game can be finished in less than an hour if you already know the basics.
Again, Choujin Sentai Jetman isn’t horrible to play; it is just startlingly routine. It’s like the development team created a generic video game template, slapped on the license, and forgot to add the fun. The only thing going for it is that you get to play as your favorite jet-people. It fits my very specific definition of a game.
You don’t really need a translation for Choujin Sentai Jetman. The logo is in Japanese, but the main menu is in English, and there’s no dialogue. You might think there’s no point to it getting released in North America, but Shout! Factory actually released the TV series on DVD in North America back in 2018. Weird, but if you like the show, the game… exists.
Check out previous Famicom Fridays right here.