Oh boy, here we go.
Behold the unhealthy love my writer harbours for City Connection, and despair.

City Connection is (probably) my favourite 'pure' arcade game.

You know the kind of game I'm talking about. Pac-Man, Defender, Donkey Kong- those old arcade games where there is no end in sight. Your only goal is to beat the high score and get as far as you can. I don't get to talk about this kind of game too often, mostly because I am awful at the vast majority of them- you should watch me try and struggle through a few rounds of Satan's Hollow for a cheap laugh. That's not to say I'm very good at City Connection either, but whenever I start to play it, an hour of my life's gone because I just have to play the damn thing at least three times. Usually more.

Developed at least in part by a company called Hect as they take credit for software and sound development on their website (the company was renamed Axes Art Amuse in 1992- their GDRI rap sheet is enlightening) and distributed by Jaleco in arcades in 1985, City Connection is an extremely silly tour of the globe. As Clarice, you have to drive your Honda City (no, honest, that's the type of car you drive here) across the world, with your objective being to drive every inch of the stage. Each city, from New York to London to Tienanmen Gate, comes in the form of a four-tier highway (three tiers suspended in mid-air, and one serving as the base) that loop horizontally and, as you drive over the road, it gets painted. Paint all of the highway and you move on to the next stage. For a Honda City, Clarice's car is pretty manoeuvrable- it can jump (a short jump or a higher one by holding the stick up), turn on a dime (but after turning it pops a wheelie, during which time you can't jump or turn again) and speed up its fall rate (hold the stick down when descending) and driving speed (hold the direction you're facing). Mastering Clarice's car is very important, as there's some vital tricks- like combining a high-jump and a turn (press jump + up + the opposite direction at once) and turning mid-air- that you need to learn to get anywhere. As you clear each stage, the designs slowly become more fiendish, mostly in the form of highway tiers that are too far apart to jump between, so you'll be doing a lot of to-in and fro-ing, eventually becoming a puzzle to the tune of 'how the flip am I gonna get there?'.

Clarice's painting spree wouldn't be too bothersome if not for three main obstacles- the police, the cats, and the road spikes. Touch any of them and you'll lose a life, lose all your lives and it's game over. The police are on her tail at every turn (yes, even on Easter Island) and while they're not exactly smart- they'll never jump up or aggressively chase Clarice- they will get in the way. They can be dispatched by throwing oil cans at them (you have a limited supply, and can grab more along the way) to stun them, then running into them. You can also chain 'em by stunning multiple cars at once for big bonus points! The cats and road spikes can't be killed, so you have to avoid them or scroll them off-screen- cats spawn randomly, and road spikes start appearing if you spend too long on one tier (it usually happens on the bottom tier as it's always the biggest, and their appearance might be connected to the mileage meter) and your best recourse is to turn tail and get on another tier. The only other wrinkle in the game mechanics are the balloons- they appear every now and then, and collecting three of them warps you to a random stage further in the game. Eventually, the level designs and backdrops will start to loop, and, well, that's your lot.

Now here's the tricky part- I've just explained what you need to know about City Connection. It's a very simple game.

So why do I like it so much?

It's essentially a take on maze-em-ups like Pac-Man and, most obviously, Miner 2049 (which is very similar but with no scrolling/auto-movement) which normally aren't my thing (Ladybug being the exception) but what grabs me about City Connection is that it flows nicely. Your little car never stops until it's dead (you can't even rest against a wall like in Pac-Man) and because the screen scrolls, there's never a 'set' amount of police cars on patrol that you wait on to respawn- there's always a constant stream, and this keeps you on your toes, as does the cat. Fortunately, these obstacles rarely feel unfair, as you can scroll them off-screen in most cases (the scrolling is odd in a way, as it 'freezes' enemies in place when you turn) and the collision detection is fairly lenient. Hell, even if you're jumping into a mob of cars, you can lob oil cans below you, and this is often enough to get you past them unscathed. There's also a constant supply of oil cans, so unless you're really going to town on the cops, you're rarely out of ammo. These elements, along with the warp-around nature of each round, mean the game lacks the claustrophobic feeling of other maze games... In this particular instance, though, that's a plus point. It feels more free, more open, almost like a Sunday drive rather than being gridlocked in traffic. It makes it quite therapeutic to paint the highways, in fact!

There are odd moments of frustration, but some of those just come from playing for the first time when you're not used to how things work. For a start, you might struggle to get used to being unable to turn/jump when popping a wheelie, so you'll be flummoxed trying to get back up to the top on certain stages. With practice, you learn how to get around it though (and really, you should coat the top first so you don't have to work your way back up) and, once you've mastered it, you'll know the easiest way to traverse through the tiers and it'll feel like it flows naturally. Also, if you're not exact with your painting you can sometimes lose where little edges/slivers of highway need to be painted, although this is rare (mostly on the pyramids stage where the tiers are difficult to see). Some bits don't get easier with practice, though- there are moments where you feel you lose a life unfairly- mostly doing a high-jump, missing, then crashing into a car because you can't change direction mid-jump... Really, though, one of the things the game wants you to do is to time your jumps correctly, so you don't whiff it. The cat, on the other hand, can be a pain at times, but he can easily be scrolled off-screen, and you're most likely to crash into him when you're not paying attention (only on rare occasions have I crashed into him with absolutely no way to save myself).

That's just me nitpicking as I am known to do, though. They can irritate a little, but not enough to phase me. With that out the way, the other thing about the game- maybe a personal preference, but at this point I don't care- is that it's charming as hell. 'Charm' isn't something that's easy to explain, especially with regards to this game, but the nearest I can come up with is 'it's just a goofy little game with goofy little details'. Example- the tiny Honda City has to be the most adorable video game car of all time. It's a dinky little thing, with some nice animation (like the light reflecting off the windows and the way it heaves its weight from one side to the other while turning) and it makes for a cute little motor. The backgrounds are a nice touch too, with recognisable monuments and landmarks on your world tour, but more important for the charm is that each stage has a different version of Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso, from Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1. Although none of them are really as great as the one for the first stage (New York, which I swear has a bit of Johnny B. Goode in it) the other remixes not only get around the old problem of driving players insane with just one song throughout an arcade game, but helps give each area a bit of extra character- they're mixed in a way that they try to evoke the country in the background. However, you'll be going insane trying to figure out what other songs they've mixed in with Allegro (one is a Beach Boys song, I swear! Either that or the 60s Batman theme). All these elements combine to make a game that just exudes an odd charm for me, so I can't help but like it, like an idiot.

I'd better wrap this love-in up, then. Whenever I want to play a relatively stress-free game that's not about getting to the end, but getting as far as I can for the highest score, then I fire up City Connection. It's a charming little paint-em-up, one of those 'pure' arcade games that I've really clicked with (see also: Dig Dug and Zoo Keeper) and I'm really doing my best to not turn this review into typing the words Hell yeah City Connection, punks! over and over again. Really, though, I keep coming back to this one because it feels nice to drive and leap across those gravity-defying highways... For such a simple game to keep pulling me back in like that means I must give it a full five stars. There's also the fact that it's a bit of an underdog game. It's a terrible habit, yes, but I always root for the little guy, and City Connection seems to get a bad rap- not many people talk about it, and those that do have mostly played the NES version which isn't the best port (we'll see about that in a moment). So, for the underdog arcade game that could, here's the final verdict: play City Connection, and know the joy of painting all of the highway.

For being one of my favourite arcade games, City Connection is awarded...

In a sentence, City Connection...
Has just been reviewed in a very unbiased way, and I don't care.

And now, it's that time, folks!

Are you ready?
This will be the longest Extended Play section in Gaming Hell history!

We shall begin with Gaming Hell's greatest mystery, solved.

As much as I love City Connection, I'm nowhere near great at it. A sign of this is I never figured out how to make the secret items appear. That is, until a reader email from Kishi lead me to Arcade Fan, which has a page on City Connection that leads to a (archive-only) page detailing the secret items appearance conditions, then I asked Twitter for help and @_sharc lead us to this site and this site which explained the methods for the Famicom version which also work in the arcade version and later on Bisboch gave us the London cheat you see below and... Sorry, I'm a bit breathless here but my God I've wanted to solve this mystery for SO LONG. Anyway, making the secret items appear is costly- the first two need you to waste a lot of oil cans, an offering to the City Connection Gods if you will- but three of them require a very strange technique, the Double Shot. By pressing the Fire button as your car is turning and as it faces the screen, your car will fire two oil cans, one left and one right. It's a desperation attack, of sorts, because you can only do it once per life, and you can even do it without any oil cans to hand! So, here's the secrets, and how to make 'em happen:

Stage Method Secret Item Screenshot
Stage 1 (America) Fire your 10th oil can while passing the Statue of Liberty Formation-Z enemy (1UP)
Stage 2 (London) Have 11 Oil Cans in stock and pick up a Balloon Another Balloon will appear instantly, then another for a quick warp
Stage 3 (France) Perform a Double Shot when you have 0 Oil Cans in stock Heart (Three will appear, grab them all to warp ahead)
Stage 7 (India) Perform a Double Shot outside the Taj Mahal The sun will set (Visual effect)
Stage 9 (Japan) Jump over a Roadblock White Rabbit (Acts as a Balloon)
Stage 10 (Australia) Perform a Double Shot anywhere Black Rabbit (Acts as an Oil Can)

All of these work the same way in the Famicom version (except the Sydney one, as that stage was left out of that port).

However, it seems the Famicom version gets two to itself- Halley's Comet and a secret in Germany.

The first one's pretty easy. On Stage 3 (France), completely paint the top and bottom rows, then go to the top row and fire a Double Shot when you have 20 Oil Cans in reserve to see Halley's Comet in the background. According to this site, Halley's Comet was put in as it was due to appear the next year, 1986.

The other one was listed on this site- a 9900 Points bonus item in Stage 4 (Germany)- and until now, it was a mystery to us as machine translation wasn't really helping. Fortunately, @gingerbeardman went to the trouble of asking around, with @Cheesemeister3k providing a translation (and @RahanAkero sent it to us too, which reminded us that we forgot to upload this updated page, hahaha we're smart) and successfully testing it revealed that it's not a bonus item at all! Instead, having 29, 30 or 31 Oil Cans in reserve when you hit an spinning enemy vehicle gives you 9900 Points instead of the normal. This only applies to the first car you hit, though, so you can't chain multiple 9900 bonuses.

And so, with many thanks to our contributors, this secrets list is as complete as you get. Nice to see that one solved, eh?

Next, the alternate English version of the game.

According to arcade-history's page on the game, only 1000 PCBs of the original Japanese version of City Connection were produced. Overseas, the game was licensed by Kitcorp (also known as Kitco or Kitkorp, they mostly brought over other developer's arcade games, including SNK's T.N.K. III and Taito/UPL's Return of the Invaders) and retitled Cruisin (flyer for it is here). The title change is superficial- it doesn't change anything else (aside from the text on the intermission screens, which is now yellow instead of pink, which I missed, so thanks The Cutting Room Floor!) and when you insert a coin, the screen before you press start still calls the game City Connection. Also according to arcade-history, Midway had to spell Cruis'n USA with that ridiculous apostrophe because of this Kitcorp release. Both are wrong anyway- it's a G that's missing off the end, so really it should be Cruisin'. C'mon guys, get it right! If nothing else, the current rights holders have embraced this weird version of the game, referencing it frequently and even streaming it at one point!

Despite its limited release in Japanese arcades, City Connection has appeared on quite a few systems...

But not enough, damnit! Not enough!

The first port is for the NES/Famicom, easily the most well-known version of the game, getting a release in both Japan (1985, barely a month after the arcade game... Apparently) and the US/Europe (1988) under its original name. The European version was limited to Spain, so as a result it's one of the more expensive PAL titles. This version was at the very least produced by Hect (their credits page is a little vague) and partly worked on by infamous ghost developer TOSE, and it's a case of six of one, half a dozen of another. To start with the bad, the soundtrack has been reduced to three songs- the title screen/intermission jingle, and two main themes (New York and London) that alternate between stages- the graphics are a lot less colourful, and critically, the scrolling is very choppy for the highway tiers. Additionally, everything feels a lot more cramped, which can make some jumps (especially on Round 2) much trickier to make). On the plus side, it's slightly easier to play- rather than individual pixels, the highway comes in 'blocks' so you don't have to be as exact when painting, and you're free to turn around wile popping a wheelie (you still can't jump during a wheelie, though). Somewhere inbetween the two, the game is set to the arcade's Hard setting, so there's more cars and cats around. Not my preferred version of the game, to be honest- it feels too cramped and the cats seem to spawn in places you can't avoid them more frequently- but it's still better than some corners of the internet say it is. Not biased, honest.

The game also had a few regional changes, some of the most baffling of the era, in fact. The Famicom version is as it is in the arcade- the driver is Clarice (she's even in the Japanese animated TV spot for the game), the intermission screens keep the NOW, YOU HAVE DRIVEN ALL THE HIGHWAY!! message, and the title screen is a black screen with the game's logo, which I always associate with the earliest NES/Famicom games. The US/EU versions replace Clarice with an unnamed dude doing a bad Elvis impression, the title screen is now white with this dude plastered all over it, and there's new intermission scenes. These intermission scenes are interesting, as rather than take out objectionable material such as crosses on gravestones and the like, they add some in! The very first of the new between-stage intermissions is of our new hero having a quick smoke. That's a Ninty No-No (the unreleased Mother/Earthbound localisation removed cigarettes, as did Deja-Vu) so who knows how it ended up in the game unchecked. Additionally, the US version changes the mileage counter from kilometres to miles (still increases at the same rate) and doesn't record your top score on the title screen. As for US-to-EU differences, just the title screen- with a TM after the game's logo and rearranged legal gumf at the bottom- is different between the two. Oh, and playing the US version on an EU machine causes an odd glitch where the score display scrolls off-screen constantly.

And here are the intermission scenes from the NES version, for those interested.

It's this NES version that's been the one ported elsewhere rather than the arcade one, though. It was included in 2003's Jaleco Collection Vol. 1 for the PS1 (alongside the NES ports of Argus, Exerion, Field Combat, Formation Z, Ninja Jajamaru-kun and Rodland), 2004's Jajamaru-kun Jr. Denshouki - Jalecole mou Arisourou for the Game Boy Advance (alongside a new Jajamaru-kun game and emulated NES versions of Exerion, Formation Z, Ninja Jajamaru-kun and Jajamaru no Daibouken), re-released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2008 (which is doubly maddening because had the Jaleco rights owners Hamster been so inclined they could've thrown the arcade version up there, seeing as there's a place for it, but hey whatever right) and re-released for the 3DS eShop and on the Switch as part of the NES games that come with a Nintendo Switch Online account. On the plus side, the VC, eShop and Switch versions made it to Europe, which means more than five people played it legally on this side of the world... In 50hz on the Wii, of course. Additionally, the manual for the VC version raises an interesting question- why does the cat carry that flag around? It is a mystery...

Of course, that's not the only port. There was an MSX version too, which came out later in Japan. Released in 1986 in ROM Cassette form, this port has considerably more compromises made to get it on the system compared to, say, The Fairyland Story. For a start, similar to the MSX version of Contra, City Connection no longer has any scrolling, and it's a flick-screen affair now. Not ideal, but it does mean that the cats are easier to avoid. Another major change is that oil cans no longer stun enemies- they outright destroy them and leave points items behind (in the form of hearts, natch). Naturally, the graphics and sound have taken a massive hit too, and the highway uses the 'blocks' from the NES port. Overall, though, it's not the same as the arcade or NES versions but it's serviceable, and definitely playable. The game was also released in Spain in cassette tape form, although it seems to be the same as the ROM cartridge version, from what I can tell. On the plus side, while the Spanish release has some very dull inlay art, the instructions stick to the game's roots, as they mention Clarice by name.

One of the more elusive versions of the game- one that we needed help in acquiring, so thank you @_sharc for your invaluable assistance!- is the Windows PC port of the arcade version of the game. Weirdly, the 2000s were a plentiful time for ports of old arcade games getting released on PC in Japan- as well as this, there were releases for games like Splatterhouse and Kiki Kaikai! Anyway, City Connection for Windows was released in a standard jewel-case box in Japan in 2003 under the companies PCCW Japan and MediaKite, then again in a DVD-style box in 2004 by Jaleco and MediaKite. The two different company names here is a little confusing, but basically back in 2000 PCCW took an 81% stake in Jaleco and so they were rebranded PCCW Japan. That name change was reverted in 2004, though, hence the company name change on the second release. Anyway, until the next port of the game, this version was the most accurate- it's basically a straight emulation of the arcade game with dip-switch settings and remappable keys. That's about it really- there is a more accessible version of the game out there (which we'll be talking about very shortly) but if you want to play the game legally on a PC, this is your best option.

Finally, you can now play City Connection on the most cutting-edge technology available- no, really- as Hamster, Co. have been re-releasing many weird arcade games as part of their Arcade Archive line on the Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Alongside games like Kiki Kaikai, Rygar and Nova 2001, City Connection is also part of this set, being released on October 2nd 2014 in Japan and May 5th 2015 in America on PS4, and July 19th worldwide on the Switch. We didn't have a Playstation 4 when we wrote this bit because we're behind, as ever, but we know someone who does, so with infinite apologies to our test subject (sorry, John) we have played this version! It's mostly a straight emulation with fairly bare-bones options, but they include dipswitches, scanlines and online leaderboards. The only quibbles are that the music seems to be a touch faster than it should be, and on a Playstation 4 controller the high-jump-into-turn manoeuvre seems to be a lot harder to pull off. However, this is literally your only option for an arcade version on a home console, and the US version comes with a hilariously-bad translation of the game's plot. For reference, here it is on the JP PSN Store, the US PSN Store and Hamter's official site (which also has the game's instruction sheet/flyer which indicates it had a pseudo-subtitle of Around the World). Sadly, if you're hoping for City Connection-specific trophies, you're out of luck- all the Arcade Archives games have the same trophies, including 'read the manual' and 'reset the game'. Never mind.

The last thing to mention is that buying any Arcade Archives games during a certain timeframe in 2015 awarded users a PS4 theme!

It has the Paris backdrop, the car, a platform and a cat from City Connection, as well as cameos from other games in the Arcade Archives line.

(And don't worry, our test subject was rewarded- they got Double Dragon as part of the deal.)

Next up, mobile games in the series. Not your fancy smartphone ports, I mean old-school phones!

We've given these their own section as they occupy a rather unique place in game history- Japanese mobile games are almost always impossible to play in our modern times of iPhones and Androids and whatnot. Emulating even something designed for games like the n-Gage is like pulling teeth, but several Jaleco mobile games, for reasons we will never truly understand, were ported to the Playstation Vita as part of the short-lived Playstation Mobile section. Even more bafflingly, these somehow made it to the UK and US Playstation Mobile shops. The City Connection games in particular come as a double-pack, including City Connection DX and City Connection Rocket. Originally, these games were released for i-mode mobile phones in Japan only, but now any old fool (read: meeeee) can play them (or could, until they were delisted), so let's have a looksie, eh?

Before we start, the first mobile City Connection game isn't included here- a 2002 port, based on the NES/Famicom version, called... City Connection.

We're not looking at that though, seeing as we can't play it.

Let's skip to 2003 instead, with City Connection DX.

I can't say if this one had any gameplay improvements from the 2002 version, but it does look much closer to the arcade version than the NES/Famicom port. It still uses the block system for painting the roads, however, and everything's much smaller. The way the game itself plays, though, is a lot choppier, and the tiny screen makes it pretty difficult to play as you have even less room to manoeuvre than usual. Additionally, Fire is assigned to the Down key, so you can no longer accelerate as you fall. Also, rather than hold Up and Jump to do a higher jump, pressing Up does a big jump, and a different key does the normal jump. On the plus side, it keeps a surprising amount of content in-tact, including different music tracks and, well, for an early colour mobile game like this, it's pretty impressive. It even keeps the Double Shot in! Had it been sold on its own, though, it probably would've been skippable. Nice bonus, anyway.

The other mobile game is an actual City Connection sequel (!!), 2004's City Connection Rocket.

Clarice- who has been redesigned to look considerably more like a 90s pizza delivery girl- has changed jobs from general mischief-maker to... Spy, I guess? Rather than paint the roads, City Connection Rocket has her flitting between highway tiers to collect secret documents hidden in briefcases. To assist jumping between rows, her Honda City has been outfitted with a rocket boost that, when activated, propels her car in the direction she's facing. It can also be used to attack enemy cars and destroy weak parts of the highway, but you have to wait for its meter to recharge between uses. She still uses oil cans for defence, but now has a choice between Gatling (same as standard City Connection) or Homing (which lock on but take time to hit their opponent), and she's still pestered by cars and cats (who can now parachute in to each stage, showing true dedication to their cause of trolling poor Clarice).

(Artwork above comes from GameWatch's coverage of the game which also includes the names of all the characters.)

Furthermore, there are a few countries to visit- USA, England, India and France for the first eight stages, Japan, China and USA again for the final eight, with a Secret Underground Base as the final level- with your next location picked by finding a flag icon, and a different Stage Clear picture of Clarice depending on your country. The final wrinkle, aside from more secret items that reference other Jaleco games including Field Combat and Saint Dragon, are the boss encounters against evil secret organisation agents Tequila, Scotch and their boss (whose name I can't get a good translation of beyond 'rectified spirit'- Vodka, maybe?) that occur every four stages, change depending on the route you take, and include a tank, dual helicopters, dual helicopters that launch parachuting cats and a laser-firing robo-suit. The game saves any secret characters you've found as well as special red documents that have special info on... Stuff (which we can't read because it's in Japanese), and there's a pause menu to save your exact stage/location and go back to it later. Fortunately, you can also start from the second 'half' of the game straight away once you get that far.

Sadly, City Connection Rocket is perhaps a bit too ambitious for its mobile phone hardware. I love the idea of it- it's an even more platform-centric version of City Connection with more options for vertical ascent! That's neat! The three main problems, however, are that it's incredibly slow (despite the title), the stages are large and loop around but the screen size feels too small to accommodate for it so you'll somehow keep getting lost, and the cats are far, far more annoying now, as while they parachute in you can still hit them and it's much harder to avoid mid-air collision. The net effect of all these is the stages feel like they drag on far longer than really necessary. Honestly, had this been remade for something like the GBA or even PSP, I'd be all over it, but it's not quite up to par. Specific to the Playstation Vita version, however, is the fact that it freezes up a lot, especially if you pause or lock the system for a short while- you'll be able to move on the Pause menu but the game itself will hang and your only option is to restart the application from scratch. Also lots of stretched pixels because of how it's displayed. Bit of a shame, that. One for the curious, though!

... Except that when Playstation Mobile went offline, so did the resurrection of City Connection Rocket. Damnit, Sony.

On the plus side, here's all the different Clarices you can see in the game:

One final note, the Playstation Vita version caters to those who want to relive the old days of Japanese Mobile Phones.

... Or it would be the final note if @rdbaa hadn't told me the City Connection Rocket devs, Studio Runba, are still around.

And their website teases a further sequel, City Connection Double Rocket. Oh, be still my beating heart!

Next, a quick look at a game inspired by City Connection, made by a fan.

Developed by SoulstealerMex86, City Connection Reloaded seems to be based more on the NES game- cramped stages, and blocks instead of pixels- but for the most part, it does its own thing, and should be considered more of a reimagining than a faithful recreation. For a start, the levels are a lot shorter, now have bottomless pits (both dotted around and at both ends, as they no longer loop around) and have completely different designs that include the likes of moving platforms and spikes that flip over. You've also got a timer, and if it runs out, you have to try again, no matter how many lives you have left. The controls are mostly the same, but you can now stop if you tap the opposite direction and you have a limited number of turbo boosts that will stun other cars if you ram into 'em. Finally, you can play the game as normal or in Hardcore Mode which removes cats and cars but gives you one life and has a much harsher time limit. There's a third mode against a CPU car that can't be unlocked. It's a pretty neat spin on the idea, and it goes at a much faster pace than the original, so you should give it a try.

Yes, this article is still going.
Next up, City Connection literature. Yes, really! Two, in fact!

First up, we have an honest-to-goodness City Connection manga! Yes, this is real, and you are seeing this right. Found completely by mistake as almost everything on this website is, I came across this page with some photos of what appears to be a promotional manga for the Famicom port, printed in the October 1985 issue of CoroCoro Comic, a monthly comic aimed at young boys. That was all I had to go on until Ragey over at Random Hoo Haas got in touch with us and not only linked us to the whole thing scanned for us, viewable over here and gave us permission to use them on this page, but also went out of their way to send us the actual book. We offer our unending thanks and gratitude to them!

Obviously, the language barrier means I can't tell you much about it, but it definitely has Clarice (alongside some new kid who seems to be the one driving the car), a rival who looks a lot like the guy used in the NES version, and the cat. It also has a few little scenes that replicate the look of the actual game! Afterwards, it has some basic info on the game and a print advert for it. What an amazing find! Thanks to the intrepid work of HokutoNoShock, the artist was identified as Kazuhisa Iwata- Anime News Network info here, Japanese wiki here- whose main work seems to be the Godzilla manga. Yes, that means you can totally connect City Connection to Godzilla.

This second book is a much more common thing for games of this era, a guide book! Specifically, this comes from a series called Famicom Urawaza ('Hidden Technique', as explained on Zerochan's look at Japanese influence on Nintendo Power), little tip books for Famicom titles. We were sent this on its own, but judging from the shared ISBN it would appear it was only released as part of a collection of very small guides for 10-Yard Fight, Wrecking Crew, Battle City and perennial nightmare-inducer The Tower of Druaga (picture here, nicked from here. It makes sense, as it is quite thin, but has maps and routes for each stage, a colour section in the middle, and hints and tips about the game's secrets. A nice little oddity for the more discerning City Connection connoisseur. You can see a full set of scans over here, again scanned by Ragey and again with the actual book sent to us!

Thanks again to Ragey for contributing to the preservation of all City Connection-related media.

Next, continuing the theme of City Connection memorabilia, some flyers!

First, here's a reproduction of the flyer for the arcade game, from The Game Paradise CruisinMix Special Paradise Box Edition.

Not much to say here, although this would later serve as the basis for the home version boxart as well as the TV spot, which we'll see in a second.

Next, here's an advertisement flyer for the Famicom port, sent to us very kindly by @_sharc!

This two-sided flyer of course has City Connection on the front, but also lists Jaleco's other early Famicom games- in order, there's Exerion, Formation-Z. Ninja-Kun: Majou no Bouken (that's a port of the UPL arcade game Ninja-Kid, rather than Jaleco's own Ninja JaJaMaru-Kun), and Field Combat. Different developers and publishers often numbered their Famicom releases (Namco is another example) hence the JP-01 to JP-05 numbering here, and our friend City Connection is JP-05. The other notable thing here is it uses some images based on the TV commercial for the game (the shots of the cops gett oil-slicked on the right, and the shot of Clarice which is different from the arcade flyer art.)- it seems Jaleco were advertising the game fairly heavily (although other games like Urusei Yatsura: Lum no Wedding Bell and Ninja JaJaMaru-Kun would get TV ads too, it seems City Connection was the only of these early releases to get a TV commercial- a nicely animated one at that). Thanks again to @_sharc who acquired this piece of City Connection minutiae for us (in the same parcel as the PC port, no less)

For reference, here is the TV ad for City Connection. Note that they use the arcade version's music- cheeky!

Next, let's look at a few reappearances Clarice has made over the years.

To start, boy is my face red- I was convinced that Jaleco's Game Tengoku / The Game Paradise series had absolutely no City Connection references at all. It turns out it does GUNbare! Game Tengoku 2, which only appeared on the Playstation, is a bizarre light-gun/shmup hybrid, and it has Clarice and her little car as a playable character... The reason I never spotted this, however, is because she's undergone a total transformation. Out with the long blue hair and racing suit, in with short blonde hair and more casual clothes, and her car's now a pea-soup-green colour, and her name's been retranslated as Claris. Additionally, her cat adversary is nowhere to be seen, from what I played. Her little jalopy, naturally, shoots oil cans (standard fire) and wheels (lock-on shot), and her bomb attack is just firing out a load of oil barrels scatter-shot style.

I'm going to hazard a guess that Clarice (or Claris, whatever) changed so drastically for this game because otherwise she'd look too similar to Selia from Plus Alpha (who originally had blue hair too) and Miki (on the right) who co-pilots the Genesis 3 from Field Combat. Apparently the fact that Clarice changed appearance is joked about in City Connection Rocket...

... And it's also joked about in Clarice's actual appearance in Game Tengoku / The Game Paradise. Yes, it's true! In 2017, just about 20 years after the release of the Saturn port of the original game, Game Tengoku CruisinMix was released on PS4 and Steam, including both a high-def rerelease of the Saturn version of the game alongside a new Arcade Mode +, based on the arcade original (so no extra stages) but with the Field Combat team from the Saturn version added plus support for DLC characters. The first of these DLC characters was, of course, Clarice. In the Japanese version of the official site she's even referred to as Clarice (True), to differentiate her from the apparent faker that showed up in GUNBare! Game Tengoku 2, something referred to in the chat with Clarice in the game's archives section (which we've recorded for your listening pleasure over here. Voiced by Sakura Tange of Card Captor Sakura fame and with her classic ClariceCar redesigned by Kenichi Sonoda, creator of Gunsmith Cats (and designer of Homura Banto for this game), she drives headlong into battle using enemy-seeking oil missiles and the Ultimate Exploding Clarice Bomber with various pin-up art of her appearing, including the winner of an art contest that, yes, I'm afraid to say had a certain MS Painter show up to enter (sadly the proof I entered disappeared when the contest page closed but it happened, I swear). This is the true return of Clarice, with gusto!

Amazingly, this game did make it to the West- the first time the Saturn version saw release outside Japan- with 2018's The Game Paradise CruisinMix Special for PS4, Switch and Steam (provided as a free update for the Steam version and essentially replacing it) with the only real addition being the DLC characters being standard and the ship from Toaplan's Tatsujin showing up as extra DLC. This did give the opportunity for a physical Limited Run Games Special Edition with a bunch of extra stuff, including soundtracks, the OVA from the Saturn release subtitled into English, and more importantly for our purposes, repros of many classic Jaleco flyers including the one for City Connection. Annoyingly, the main reason I have to mention this second release is because the English release on PS4 is notable on certain corners of the internet getting really mad that one of the Ultimate Exploding Clarice Bomber images was removed- the cheerleader one where it appears Clarice is wearing no bra- before they forgot this game existed then went off to be mad about something else. Despite this,Degica, the English publisher, had to make a statement about it anyway. Let it be known I might be the biggest Clarice stan on the face of the planet, yet I cannot muster the energy to get mad about this. I'm more of a bunny girl person myself anyway.

Next, here's where things get a bit weird- Clarice is the mascot of a Japanese record label! Kind-of.

There's a record company called City Connection that has a retro game music-centric subsidiary called Clarice Disc. Their speciality seems to be the companies that don't get enough love these days, including Sunsoft, Hot-B and Jaleco. Needless to say, Clarice Disc is intentional nod to City Connection, as looking their website shows Clarice and the car from CC as little icons, their Twitter account almost always has her in their icon, and their shop's 'add to basket' button is Clarice loading a CD into the CC car's boot. How ace is that? The answer is 'very'. In fact, the company has a games division that actually owns the rights to City Connection as well as many other Jaleco games, as listed on their Jaleco License Catalog site. I can only assume there's a City Connection superfan out there who made all this possible.

Also, one of their albums, Rom Casette Disc in JALECO Remix, has a song (25 Color Twilight) based on City Connection.

Let us enjoy it together.

Finally, there's a set of Jaleco-themed avatars available on the Playstation Network (Japan only) for 52 Yen (originally 50 before the tax hike) each, including (from what I could see) Avenging Spirit, Ninja Jajamaru-kun, Field Combat, Formation Z... And above is the one for City Connection, which actually does call her Clarice (thanks, @LandRoverAttack, for translating that one). The artwork comes from the TV advert we saw earlier for the Famicom port. You can grab it from the online store here if you wanna be a cool dude on PSN.

Needless to say, Gaming Hell's official Japanese PSN account uses this as its avatar.
When it's not using Homura from Madoka Magica, obv.

Still with us? Hang in there, champ, it's nearly over.
Let's end with the plot of City Connection. There's several versions.

The arcade and Famicom versions star Clarice- her name appears at the bottom of the arcade version's high score table- and depending on where you look, her reasons for driving everywhere are different. arcade-history and the Japanese Wikipedia page has the most detail, establishing that Clarice is 15 years old and travelling the world looking for the ideal man, hence why when she gets hit, her car explodes into a pile of hearts. The Japanese Wikipedia page also tries to figure out why the police get involved, offering theories such as Clarice being too young to drive, driving too fast, or without a license... However. As outlined by this excellent Twitter thread by Kate Willært, someone just made this all up for Japanese Wikipedia, it then got picked up internationally, referenced in a 2016 book, and then that 2016 book was used as a source, creating a factual ouroboros. It's a good thing the original version of this page clarified exactly where this story came from and didn't attribute it to the original flyer, eh?

On the other hand, the English Wikipedia entry says that she's on a world tour, and she's marking the roads as a way of proving she's visited a country- this vandalism annoys the police, and so they give chase.

Originally, this page was missing the Japanese Famicom version's plot to go on, as I was unable to find translations of it online and didn't even have a physical copy- I happen to have the Famicom version, but it's unboxed. However, Twitter user @gingerbeardman went to the trouble (again) of finding a transcribed version of the manual online for me- thank you!- and a bit of jiggery-pokery (better switch your text encoding to Shift-JIS to read it properly) got a machine-translatable version (with some of the blanks filled in with a later version, as you'll see). This one establishes Clarice as a girl from California who wants to travel on every highway in the world, but causes a lot of bother and gets the police on her tail quickly. This version also specifies that Clarice's car is a 4WD vehicle with a V8, 7-litre, twin-turbo engine (that can also jump).

The Spanish MSX release is a bit more vague (from what I can read- howdy, machine translation!) as it seems to say that Clarice is painting the roads just to make them nice and colourful. The police want to arrest her because they don't share 'her frivolous enthusiasm' (their words, not mine).

The US NES version probably has the silliest plot of all of these. Your character- who is now a man, who I like to think is called Claude- has robbed a high-end paint store in New York and the car is leaking paint. Once you've literally painted the highway, you get a boat to England to evade the cops and oh my God this is so silly seriously why would you rob a paint store but at the same time this is gloriously over-the-top video game plot. I remember reading this plot synopsis in How to Win at Nintendo Games Volume 2 and I thought they'd made it up, that it couldn't possibly be in the manual for the game. How wrong I was. Here it is so you can see for yourself.

Originally, I thought the Wii Virtual Console version had its own plot, until I saw the Famicom version and realised it was basically a translation/edit of that version- again, this version specifies the player character is a young Californian who wants to travel every highway in the world whose reckless driving technique gets the attention of the police. It also keeps the same level of detail about the car, but its speculation about the cat appears to be original. Isn't it funny? The most mysterious version of the game's story, the Famicom one, was in front of me the whole time! Also, @gingerbeardman pointed out that the Wii version lists the bonus life as 100,100 points instead of the correct 100,100.

The 3DS release of the NES version re-uses the 'you robbed a paint store' plot. Well, I think it does. I don't actually have a 3DS (expecting a bunch of angry emails telling me to get with the times in 3, 2, 1...) so I can only go on what's up on Nintendo's site. Does the in-game manual stick to this version of the plot, or does it come up with a new one? Do let us know.

Finally- and something that brings us full circle- the Hamster and PSN Store pages for the PS4 release go back to the story given on arcade-history and the Japanese Wikipedia, that Clarice is a 15-year old girl travelling the world for her ideal man. So what started as made-up is now canon. This story is even referenced in Clarice's appearance in Game Tengoku CruisinMix, and so a little white lie travelled the highway, indeed the world, to become the truth. Maybe. Probably not. I have a headache now.

We shall now end this love-letter to City Connection with some fan-art.

Our Twitter pal @Slonie/@Supcat created this. Click to embiggen.

... Of course, we had a shot at it too...

... And even some Splatoon crossover fanart! That's something, right?

It's over now. Never will you see an article as intense as this again... Or will you?