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Japanese arcade flyer of Chelnov.
|Publisher(s)||Data East, Paon|
|Mode(s)||1-2 players (alternating turns)|
|Display||Raster, Horizontal orientation
256 x 240 pixels
Chelnov (チェルノブ cherunobu?), also known as Atomic Runner or fully titled as Atomic Runner Chelnov - Nuclear Man, the Fighter (ATOMIC RUNNER CHELNOV 戦う人間発電所 Atomic Runner Chelnov - Tatakau Ningen Hatsudensho?, lit. "Atomic Runner Chelnov - Fighting Human Power Plant"), is a Japanese infinite runner arcade game developed and published by Data East in 1988.
The player controls Chelnov's movements with the 8-way joystick, and the 3 buttons to attack, jump, or turn around. Six types of weapons can be obtained during the game, and collecting power-ups can improve Chelnov's attack power, rapid-firing capability, attack range, or jumping height.
The game is a forced side-scrolling game where the screen continually scrolls to the right at a constant speed unless the player is fighting a boss, in which the screen will stop scrolling. Chelnov will continue to run with the screen even if the player lets go off the joystick. Though the player can move to the left or right of the scrolling screen by entering the corresponding direction on the joystick, it is impossible to stop or move backwards except when fighting a boss (Chelnov can turn backwards while jumping). The main character's sprite animation is highly detailed and smooth for its time, comparable to the level of Karateka and the early Prince of Persia games. The ending screen appears when the player finishes all 7 levels of the game.
The player takes the role of Chelnov, a coal miner who miraculously survives the malfunction and explosion of a nuclear power plant. Chelnov's body gains superhuman abilities due to the massive amount of radiation given off by the explosion, and a secret organization seeks to harness those abilities for its own evil purposes. Chelnov must battle and defeat the secret organization using his newfound abilities.
Chelnov is one of the most controversial arcade games in history. The setting, where a coal miner is caught in a nuclear accident, a hammer and sickle visible on the game's opening screen, and the game's title (Chernobyl is written チェルノブイリ in Japanese) led many to interpret the game as a tasteless parody of the Chernobyl disaster. Data East responded in a television program that the name "Chelnov" was merely a relative of Karnov, the title character of one of the company's games, and was not at all influenced by the events at Chernobyl. Other development staff members later explained that the game had been planned under a different name, but the events at Chernobyl led to the name "Chelnov," which became the game's title. Under this explanation, the parodic elements resulted purely out of coincidence, but over a year and a half passed from the accident to the first release of the game, which was ample time for the developers to reassess the suitability of the game's plot and content. The game's storyline was changed considerably to remove connotations with Chernobyl when the game was ported to the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, (Not shown, the U.S. NTSC version box art for Atomic Runner, by Marc Ericksen, featured only Chelnov in tech armor with a night city backdrop), and Sharp X68000 home systems (see Ports & related releases).
The game was first ported to the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis in 1992, but many parts of the game were remade due to the negative feedback received in the initial release. The Japanese version kept the same name as its arcade counterpart, but the North American and European versions were simply titled Atomic Runner. The game's plot was changed completely, where Chelnov is not a coal miner caught in a nuclear meltdown, but a regular human-being wearing a special combat suit who battles enemies to rescue his younger sister. The game's enemies and background images were also changed to those reminiscent of an ancient civilization. This version was released for the Wii Virtual Console in Japan on September 11, 2007.
The game was also ported to the X68000 in 1993. This version was developed by Micomsoft, and published by Denpa Shinbunsha, and is a faithful port of the original arcade version. This release contained an adapter for the Mega Drive controller, commonly known in Japan as the Chelnov Adapter (チェルノブアダプタ?), and allowed the player to use the Mega Drive controller for many other X68000 games besides Chelnov.
A port to the Sega Saturn was planned and developed, but was never released to consumers. A version of this port appeared in the Tokyo Game Show and several game stores in Akihabara around 1997, but was cancelled for unknown reasons. The content was a direct port of the arcade version. A fully playable prototype of the Sega Saturn version was leaked in 2012.
Karnov (1987) and Trio The Punch (1989) were both released at around the same period as Chelnov, and are often grouped together as the strangest of Data East games. Chelnov also appears as an enemy character in Trio The Punch, Tumble Pop (1991), and Fighter's History: Mizoguchi Kiki Ippatsu!! (1995), and can be seen being transported in a frozen container on a freight train in Bad Dudes Vs. Dragon Ninja (1988). In Sly Spy (1989), a poster showing Chelnov can be seen at the beginning of Stage 4. Wolf Fang (1991) bears no direct relation to the game other than also being developed by Data East, but its game system shows strong influence from Chelnov. Chelnov also makes a cameo appearance in Joe and Mac, but only in the first stage of the arcade version.