Review – Zunzunkyou no Yabou

Zunzunkyou no Yabo title screen header

When it comes to arcade games, actually being enjoyable to play isn’t always the most important aspect. To succeed in the arcade – and really, this is still true in what passes for an arcade these days – you needed to be attention-grabbing. Look at the original Mortal Kombat, for instance. It was absolutely shit to play, but the mix of music, digitized actors playing memorable characters, and monocle-popping gore made it a fixture in arcades.

Or look at Altered Beast. Or look at Hard Drivin’. Or look at Zunzunkyou no Yabou.

Okay, I’m not sure that Zunzunkyou no Yabou was ever really popular. It wasn’t localized in North America, but that might just be because it’s extremely Japanese. However, I bring it up as an example because if I had seen this in an arcade, I would absolutely jam a coin in that quarter hole.

Zunzunkyou no Yabou Ballerinas dancing in a field. The men have massive packages.
Anything grabbing your attention?


Zunzunkyou no Yabou perhaps best translates to “Ambition of Zunzun,” with the “kyou” in the name being a suffix indicating a religion. So, maybe, “Ambition of the Zunzun Cult.”

It involves the eponymous cult (or religion) and a Jizo Statue’s attempt to stop them. MobyGames’ description of the game suggests that you play as Zunzun, but I don’t think that’s correct. The level select screen is labeled “Zunzunkyou Shibu” with Shibu meaning branch or chapter. The four levels are then labeled Japan Branch, Asia Branch, Europe Branch, and America Branch. I’m pretty sure it’s about a global cult causing problems.

That’s extremely unfortunate timing. Zunzunkyou no Yabou was released in 1994. This was while the Aum Shinrikyou (there’s that kyou suffix) was at its most active, which culminated in the 1995 sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway that killed 14 people.

Oh, y’know, that’s probably why Zunzunkyou no Yabou isn’t better known.

Zunzunkyou no Yabou Jizo statue makes its entrance.
*Sound of glass shattering.*


The obscurity might also be because it was 1994, and Zunzunkyou no Yabou is a fixed-screen shoot-’em-up similar to Space Invaders or Galaga. There’s some edge-scrolling, but your Jizo is always shooting upward. At that point, scrolling shoot-’em-ups were where it was happening. Even Galaxian games that were coming out at the time were rail shooters.

The gameplay is also not much more impressive than early fixed-screen games. Enemy patterns are rather simple, and you’re mostly just firing upwards and using crash bombs. That’s it. Aside from some typical power-ups, there’s nothing more complex to see.

What makes it stand out, however, is entirely the aesthetics. The title screen has dancing figures silhouetted in front of a wall of flames as they chant “Zunzun, Zunzun, Zunzun.” Then things get weirder from there.

You select your branch from one of the four, then are taken to the battlefield. Your little Jizo statue makes an entrance through a crowd of people like it’s Saturday Night’s Main Event and faces a group of dancers. Say you picked the Japan Branch. Your first set of foes are dancers in a discotheque. The second is a more traditional group of Japanese dancers. The third group is salarymen and construction workers, but even they dance for some reason.

Zunzunkyou no Yabo fighting an American Flag themed hero that fires the word "Justice."
My dog loves it when you give him just ice.


The enemies do more than dance. Each stage features two unique groups of foes with different patterns of movement. One group will take up all the space on the dance floor, while another sweeps in from the sides. They each hurl projectiles, which is the real tricky part of the game. They come from all angles, while your Jizo can only shoot upwards.

And the hit detection can fuck itself from orbit.

I’m no game designer, but one thing I’ve learned from the places I’ve dipped my toes is that you should always be generous when it comes to hit detection. The hitbox in a lot of games, especially shoot-’em-ups, is smaller than the player sprite. Zunzunkyou no Yabou has a ridiculously huge collision box, which is, at the very least, as big as your character. I’d swear that they didn’t clip the transparent corners, though, since some projectiles seem like they should have missed.

And, of course, this is a one-hit kill sort of game. And each time you die, it plays an excruciatingly annoying little jingle. Worse yet is that you can power up your shots (and statue) by collecting a power-up. Only one of them drops each level, and dying means you lose them all. Getting to the maximum form is extremely difficult, and you can still wind up losing it in an instant. It’s so damned frustrating. I can’t imagine what playing this with quarters on the line would be like.

Zunzunkyou no Yabou dancing salarymen.
At least they seem to be enjoying their job.


The levels are, at least, visually varied, if nothing else. While most enemies act similarly, each level presents something different. One of them has dancing topless women with single-pixel nipples. So, that’s pretty neat. They all fall into that category of goofy, Japan-specific stereotyping. Especially the bosses.

Speaking of which, the bosses are where Zunzunkyou no Yabou shines, as they’re even weirder than the stage enemies. I’m not sure which is better. There’s a chef in a bowl of Ramen that fires narutomaki and gyoza in all directions. Another is a ridiculous American super-hero that shoots a spread of letters that spell “JUSTICE.” They’re pretty great, especially since their patterns are a bit easier to identify and adapt to.

The last boss, on the other hand, is brutal. What’s worse is that once you beat them, you have to play the game a second time to actually get the ending. Like Ghosts ‘n Goblins but way lamer. I’m not certain that it even gets harder, I just stopped caring. The only thing that kept me playing with any effort was my hatred of that death jingle. Otherwise, I’d probably just keep cramming in virtual quarters until the ending happened.

Zunzunkyou no Yabou previously topless dancers.
I had to blast off their tits for censorship purposes. This is a family establishment.


Zunzunkyou no Yabou is a shameless quarter muncher. It gives you a reason to want to see everything that it has to offer and will milk that desire for everything it’s worth. You’ll want to know if its ending is a crazy as the concept (it’s not).

But that’s probably all that will be driving you to continue playing. The gameplay itself is bland at best and frustrating most of the time. It concept of fighting a deranged dancing cult is poorly timed but very appealing. Its aesthetics (aside from the music) play off this perfectly in big and small ways. It’s worth seeing, but playing it is not something I can recommend. It’s pretty sad when the attract screen is the best part of a game.


This review was conducted using the MAME emulator and a ROM. The reviewer would pay for it if it was available, Sega.

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About Zoey Handley 243 Articles
Zoey made up for her mundane childhood by playing video games. Now she won't shut up about them. Her eclectic tastes have led them across a vast assortment of consoles and both the best and worst games they have to offer. A lover of discovery, she can often be found scouring through retro and indie games. She currently works as a Staff Writer at Destructoid.

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