TV Game

black sewing machine -SEKAIKEI GIRL-

TV Game


In 1979, the same year that saw the release of Space Invaders and Galaxian, there was a third STG where you fought against waves of oncoming enemies. This game was called Dracula Hunter. I have never played Dracula Hunter. I will probably never play Dracula Hunter. Not just me, but nobody else will play Dracula Hunter, because it’s lost media. The only evidence of this game ever existing are a handful of magazine screenshots, some videos by private collectors who have the few ROM boards in existence, and a single reference in the manga Game Center Arashi.

Dracula Hunter is a real game, or at least as real as something that only exists on a collector’s shelf. Yet, it doesn’t feel like it’s real. This lost title with unusual imagery for its time: the way that the crosses you shoot don’t simply go straight up, like the bullets in Space Invaders, the way the princess lies at the bottom of the screen, and Dracula’s castle bursting into surprisingly detailed flames at the end of each stage. Mechanically speaking, it’s not all that strange, but a combination of its art style and status as lost media give it this air of being some haunted urban legend, like you finally get to play it, and then some spirit of vengeance appears and rips your throat out.

In 2020, a doujin game for the MSX computer was released. This was called Black Sewing Machine -SEKEIKAI GIRL-, and it was released by a group or singular entity known as Tensei Kobo, who have released a large number of games (at least 41) made in MSX BASIC. Now, while all of these games are interesting in their own right, SEKEIKAI GIRL stuck out to me due to its occult-themed imagery presented in lo-fi 8-bit graphics. With only one or two colors, SEKEIKAI GIRL manages to have such an evocative style that manages to create a mood that games with more technology behind them struggle to do themselves.

SEKEIKAI GIRL is a pretty simple game. A single-screen affair where you move left to right, trying to avoid obstacles or enemies that get in your way. It never gets more complicated than that, you’re not even given any form of offense, you just move left and right and jump. There is apparently a secret technique that I still have yet to figure out. From what I could gather from the machine translation, it might be a higher vertical jump. I say this because I still have not been able to finish SEKEIKAI GIRL. This is a really hard game! I still have a hard time not getting hit by the Moai In Black, and figuring out the proper time to jump over the Loch Ness Monster. Still need to spend some time understanding the underlying mechanics.

SEKEIKAI GIRL is pretty simple, which I feel really helps its aesthetic. Much like Dracula Hunter, SEKEIKAI GIRL does not seem like a real game. Again, it feels like one of those urban legends, except this time I found the haunted game in question. Neither game is “scary” in any traditional sense. This game, while featuring mild occult elements, is not really a horror game. Nothing jumps out at you to give you a cheap scare. There’s no violence, no blood, no death, running out of hearts immediately takes you to a game over screen. If the ominous looking background had been replaced with something like a forest or a regular cityscape, then this game would not be out of place among so many other MSX titles. But because it does look the way it does, SEKEIKAI GIRL is a game that gives you that sense of unease. It doesn’t scare you, but it makes your imagination run a little bit. I’m sure this has a lot to due with the fact that there is hardly any information about this game online, at least in the English-speaking world. I’m finding out that 8-bit horror is an untapped genre that should be tapped into more (before anyone says anything, yes, I have played Faith, and I thought it was good).

That’s SEKEIKAI GIRL, and to a lesser extent, Dracula Hunter. These very simple games that, due to their appearance and limited release or lack of information, come across as these very mysterious games that have this cursed aura around them. An aura that makes you think they were actual creations of the occult. I love it.