Friday, 24 July 2015

Kenyuu Densetsu Yaiba (SNES)

While the Mega Drive catered to arcade nerds with its many ports and original shooting games, the SNES/Super Famicom sought to draw in the anime nerds, with masses of licenced games and RPGs (I have a theory that the decline in RPG popularity is linked with the rise of very cheaply available anime, especially in the west. Back in the 90s, it was a lot more expensive, space-consuming and generally difficult to watch an entire anime series, but RPGs offered a full-length animesque storyline contained in a single cartridge or later on, a few CDs.).

Yaiba is both an anime licenced game and an RPG. I don't know anything about the source material, but it looks to be a pretty generic early 90s shonen series, though the creator went on to create the absurdly long-running Detective Conan juggernaut. As for the game itself, it's an action RPG, with the emphasis placed heavily on the action. Interacting with other characters is mostly confined to linear dialogues before and after bossfights, as well as token conversations related to mechanical things like saving and buying items.

The vast majority of the player's time is spent roaming topdown stages killing constantly spawning enemies, until they find the spot where the next story event or bossfight is triggered. It's better than I'm making it sound, but it's also very simple. In fact, the simplicity is actually part of the game's appeal. There's some nice streamlining in the mechanics that I really like. For example, rather than receiving experience points in set amounts upon defeating enemies, whenever the player hits an enemy, they receive experience equal to the amount of damage they inflicted. Level ups are simple, too: every level up you recieve adds 10 to your maximum HP, 1 to the amount of damage you inflict with a normal attack and reduces the amount of damage you take from enemy attacks by one.

The fact that the game is so simple means that Japanese literacy is not at all required to enjoy it, I managed to get a fair few stages in so far with no troubles, at the most you'll probably just need to look up the controls and the basics of how the game works: saving, travelling between stages, that kind of thing.

Kenyuu Densetsu Yaiba isn't anything particularly special, but it's a fun game, it feels rewarding to play, and it doesn't require knowledge of Japanese language. I don't think you'd regret giving it a try.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Rayer Shoot (X68000)

Something the X68000 has a lot of (compared to most systems) is fan-made games based on anime, with a fair few of them being based on magical girl shows. There's a bunch of Sailor Moon fangames on there, as well as a relatively well-known one based on Akazukin Chacha. Rayer Shoot is another one of those, based (as you can probably tell from the very obivously fanart title screen) on CLAMP's series Magic Knight Rayearth. I'm not very familiar with the series, but I do know that it's about three schoolgirls who get whisked away to a magical fantasy land while on a school trip to the Tokyo Tower.

Anyway, despite the amateurish title screen, the game itself is really well presented. Almost commercial quality, even, with nice sprites, lots of colour, decent music, and even voice samples. I assume the samples must be recorded from the anime itself? I should really talk about how the game plays too, right? Well, it's no classic, but it's a pretty good effort.

It's a vertically-scrolling shooter, and the player has control of all three of the schoolgirl protagonists, though only one at a time. Each girl has a different weapon, and they each have a health bar, which slowly replenishes while tagged out. There's also an experience/levelling up system in lieu of power ups, though it seems to take a very very long time to get anywhere with it, and it'd definitely take a lot of skill to even try to keep your three girls' levels balanced.

In fact, playing the game takes a lot of skill in general: those health bars go down very quickly, and the enemies and their bullets are both high-speed and high-quantity. To get anywhere, players really do need to keep an eye on their helath bars and make tactical use of tagging in and out to recover as much health as possible, trying to keep the girl with the highest amount of health in play as much as possible. You also get a bomb attack which is different for each girl and recharges a short time after use.

Rayer Shoot is a fun, well presented game, as well as a nice little artifact of 90s anime fandom in Japan. I definitely recommend it, with the caveat that you go in expecting a merciless challenge.