ZOIDS : Chuuou Tairiku no Tatakai and ZOIDS 2: Zenebasu no Gyakushuu are two NES games, and fairly early. The first one came out in 1987, and the second one came out in 1989. Both were developed by Micronics and published by Toemiland. They’re tie-ins to a long running anime / toy line which I know nothing about (save that it seems a bit like a Transformers clone.)
These are good examples, however, of playing older games in Japanese. ZOIDS, itself, seems pretty “okay” to handle. You start out in a Dragon Quest like town, and can run into a password giving dinosaur pretty early on (which ends your game, and trying to continue just gives you the password screen.) Other than that, it seems pretty normal. There’s a good range of NPC types – all various Zoids from the series, I’d assume. The character design is pretty goofy. The stepping animation includes flipping the eyes up and down, and your hero has a gigantic grin. On the other hand, you’re playing mecha Godzilla in Dragon Quest.
The battle system is pretty similar to the ZOIDS 2 system. You have a scrolling plane, and you shoot bullets (with B) in real time at the various enemies. ZOIDS has on screen enemies representing the random battles, but it’s otherwise pretty similar to the sequel.
ZOIDS 2 has a humanoid hero, but you’re using a mecha Godzilla when you head out of town. According to Wikipedia, you’re a low ranking soldier and you can rise up in ranks if you make the right choices. Unusually enough, there’s also a romance element in the game. You can talk to your girlfriend, and with the right choices, you basically get a “You draw close to her” and a fade to black when you visit her for the rest of the game. It’s sort of interesting that it’s mimicking a classic war story where a romance amounts to “welcome home, hero.”
However, the game is a lot harder to play. There’s a bank system in the game, and not all towns have banks. Even if the starting town has a bank, you’d have to figure out which one is the bank and how to withdraw money. If you don’t know about the bank system, you can sit there with no money, fighting fights that give you 4G at a time – and never earn any cash.
Are the games any good? Just from the early bits of the game, I’d say that ZOIDS is probably a nostalgic game if you like the series or Dragon Quest with an unusual battle system. ZOIDS 2 is a lot more pretty, and seems to have a fairly complex story line. However, the language barrier makes it pretty hard to advance.