Game Cover
©Capcom 1985
Release: 1986-02-08 (¥4900)
Cartridge CAP-SS

Son Son is a side scrolling action game by Capcom and conversion of their own arcade game originally released in 1984. It is loosely based on the old Chinese legend Journey to the west and tells the story of a monk and his long pilgrimage to Tenjiku (ancient India) to retrieve Buddhist scriptures. But soon, the monk and his disciples (lead by Son Son the monkey boy) come under attack and are captured by a flying demon-warrior. Only Son Son and Ton Ton (the pig in two-player cooperative mode) manage to escape, and the duo vows to save their friends and to reach their intended destination. Son Son is not your typical platform game, but rather a mix of platform action and shooting. Each one of the twenty levels (or continuous sections) is made out of six large platforms that span across the screen. The playfield constantly scrolls from right to left, encouraging Son Son to always stay on the move and to jump up or down to higher or lower ground in order to avoid incoming enemies or to collect fruits and other special items. Most of the items available in the game, such as fruits and vegetables, are only good for points (additionally, larger ones appear in front of wooden signs and award the player with even more bonus points). The last power-ups are Capcom's familiar and trademark Pow icons (kill all the enemies on the screen and turns them into fruits and vegetables for points), small Bamboo shoots (they grow behind Son Son) and the Yashichi pinwheel for extra bonus points. Every so often, the screen stops for a short amount of time and unveils a tougher battle against skull blocks, bombers and, later in the game, respawning waves of increasingly difficult enemies and large flying demon-warriors.
Son Son 2 (Pce-Hu)
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Son Son - arcade The arcade game Son Son was originally released by Capcom in 1984 (picture on the left), and it was technically the second arcade game to be ever released by the company (after the vertical shooter Vulgus). Curiously, the game was only ported to the Famicom (1986) and, as an interesting side note, an obscure roulette redemption game called Double Fever Son Son was even available in Japan and manufactured by Capcom (the medal game, released in 1987, was part of a series that also included 1942, Senjō no Ōkami and Makaimura). The first Son Son arcade game was later included in Capcom Generation 3 (Playstation and Sega Saturn, 1998), Capcom Classics Collection vol.1 (Playstation 2 and XBox, 2005) and in Capcom Classics Collection (aka Capcom Classics Collection Reloaded for the Playstation Portable, 2006). A sequel called Son Son II followed five year after the first game, in 1989, and was released exclusively for the PC Engine system. Son Son is still a recurring character in the Capcom universe - he made several minor cameo appearances (along with Ton Ton the pig) in other Capcom titles (such as the Super Puzzle Fighter series) and his grand-daughter appears as a playable fighter in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (arcade, 2000).

The Son Son series was actually based on a 16th century popular and classic Chinese novel called the Journey to the West. See Son Son 2 for more information about the classic story.


Son Son manual
Click on picture to enlarge

Alternate bonus points:
If you miss one of the special bonus items (the ones that appear in front of wooden signs), an odd looking lizard Son Son - lizard or a bird Son Son - bird will appear and will move across the screen. When they leave the playfield, they will leave behind an item (such as vegetables or a shorcake) that will be worth bonus points (always less than the item you missed though).

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Son Son starts out as a cute, simple and harmless action game - Son Son and his sidekick friend Ton Ton definitively give the game an unique flair and distinctive visual style. The game's concept is also an interesting mix of platform and shooting action (the screen constantly moves forward as you shoot down waves of enemy attackers). But Son Son quickly becomes a quagmire of repetitive and grinding action. The same waves of enemy hordes show up again, and again, and although the look of the platforms do slightly change as the game progresses, they keep the same basic structure (with occasional small pits and bridges). Well, it is not really fair to blame this conversion for that, the Famicom version's layout is quite faithful to the original arcade game. No, in my mind, the things that bug me far above the rest are the atrocious slowdowns - this Famicom port suffers from excessive and nasty slowdowns when too many enemies appear on the screen... All in all, Son Son has its share of fun and engaging moments (despite its extreme repetitiveness), and the two-player cooperative mode is definitively a plus, but it suffers from technical shortcomings that hurt the gameplay experience.

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