You expect, and will find, old games for the Famicom where you play as a soldier. Or a pilot. Or an athlete.
What you don’t expect, but what you’ll find anyway, is a game starring the leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
This is Gorby’s Pipeline, otherwise known as Gorby no Pipeline Daisakusen. If you couldn’t tell by the birthmark on the cover star and the name of the game, the name of the game was to help Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev lay water pipes across the breadth of the USSR.
While the Russian setting seems slightly bizarre, it’s not when you realise it was a fairly clever Tetris clone, only instead of falling blocks it had falling pipes, and instead of simply clearing lines you were linking pipes to move water, something that’s harder than it sounds.
Gorby’s Pipeline was cool because, for a Japanese game (developed by Puyo Pop creators Compile, incidentally) it took the whole Russian thing and just ran with it. It had the Soviet President on the cover. It had little kids in Russian dress. Between the nine stages was a map showing your progress literally laying pipes across the entire Soviet Union. Even the soundtrack had a Russian slant to it.
It was also timely! Compile released the game on both the Famicom and MSX in 1991, just months before the December coup that would see the end not just of Gorbachev’s short “reign” as leader of the USSR, but the demise of the Soviet Union itself.