Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Simple 2000 Series Vol. 60: The Tokusatsu Henshin Hero

Like the last PS2 game I covered, Seigi no Mikata, The Tokusatsu Henshin Hero is a game that's heavily themed around the genre of Japanese superhero TV shows (though you could probably guess that from the title). Being a Simple 2000 game, however, it eschews the strange meta "living in a tv show world" approach of Seigi no Mikata, and takes the more obvious path of being a beat em up in which you fight a bunch of goons before a monstruous boss.

The tokusatsu flavour is still pretty strong, though. Even though the plot is all in Japanese, it's still easy enough to follow and all the classic cliches of the genre are there: the scientist who gave you your powers watches over you, there's generic footsoldier enemies, along with cheesy-looking monsters, and above the monsters, there's occasional fights against higher-ranking, re-occuring enemies, too. In fact, one of those re-ooccuring enemies, named Yabaider is a direct homage to the character Hakaider, who first appeared as a villain in the 1972 TV series Android Kikaider, and even had his own spinoff movie in 1995 entitled Mechanical Violator Hakaider. Interestingly, as it is a budget game, it takes something of a tokusatsu-style approach to cutting costs, too: the same few locations are reused over and over, there's a lot of padding out by having you fight off increasingly large groups of identical footsoldiers, and none of the battles are particularly grand or spectacular.

These cost-cutting measures unfortunately result in a game that is incredibly repetitive, though. Every stage plays the same, and the first half in which you fight the generic enemies gets longer and more labourious each time as they come in bigger numbers and with more HP each time. The bosses also have far too much HP, as once you've learned their patterns, you're left avoiding them and very gradually chipping away at their life bars for several minutes. Of course, maybe if I could read the unlock conditions for more weapons and moves, maybe it would all have been a lot more fast paced, so the Japanese-literate among you might have a better time (though obviously, I can't promise anything. maybe all the unlockables are rubbish).

You can pick a male or female base, and can choose various costume parts, with more being unlocked as you play, along with more attacks and weapons. At first, I thought there was an Earth Defence Force type situation going on, whereby items are unlocked at random when you finish a stage, but on closer inspection, it appears that each item has a specific unlock condition to be met. This is actually the one place where the language barrier was a problem, as the unlocks started to dry up a few stages in, and I couldn't figure out how to force more of them. It's only a small problem though, as early on, I unlocked a laser pistol and a kind of jumping splits kick, which are both incredibly effective at taking down both footsoldiers and bosses alike.

On the subject of the language barrier, it should also be noted that there are rumours of a European release of this game, from 505 Gamestreet, under the title "Power Fighters". However, though it's appeared on various release lists and so on, I've never seen a copy for sale online or off, nor have I seen any screenshots or footage, and no disc image has ever been ripped and uploaded to the internet as far as I'm aware, either. So I suspect that Power Fighters either doesn't exist at all, or if it does, only on some long-forgotten hard drive in Italy somewhere. Of course, if I'm wrong and it did actually get released, and you can prove it, please let me know.

In summary, The Tokusatsu Henshin Hero is almost an archetypal Simple Series game: it's cheap and repetitive, but also very charming and obviously made with love. It's best played in short bursts of one or two stages at a time, it would definitely be agonising to endure for longer sessions.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Dragon's Revenge (Mega Drive)

So, you might remember a while back, when I reviewed Jaki Crush, the sequel to Devil Crush. Well, in a convoluted sort of way, Dragon's Revenge is also the sequel to Devil Crush. You see, it was Tengen who brought the Mega Drive port of Devil Crush to the west, and while they did so, they also changed the name to Dragon's Fury, and removed pentagrams, coffins, crosses and various other things, so as to avoid offending any 17th century witchfinders that might have bought a copy for their kids. Despite all that, the sheer quality of the game shone through and it was enough of a hit for Tengen to make this weird semi-official psuedo-sequel to their bowdlerisation of someone else's game.

So, Dragon's Revenge takes a lot from its forbear: a three screen high main table, various bonus stages, even things like having a dragon's head on the bottom screen, a woman's face in the middle and a skull on the top. Though the woman and the skull are pretty different to the ones in the first game. The woman was a regular old pixel art sprite in the first game, and gradually turned into a snake monster as you did stuff, but now she's made up of digitised photos of a real woman's face, and as you do stuff, she wakes up and starts talking and going "ooh!" like she's in a carry on film, then she kind of floats around the table at random for some reason too. The skull is still pretty much the same as it was before, functionally speaking (it's a portal to a bonus stage), but it does look like a cool demon goat skull, so that's nice.

The bonus stages are a lot like the ones in Devil Crush, too: you hit either a big monster or lots of little monsters with your ball to kill them. None of them feel as fun though, and they all have a very cheesy 80s fantasy novel cover look to them, too. I guess the one where a bunch of little goblin men stand on a waterfall and throw their endlessly-regenerating heads down the screen is funny, though. It seems that there's some kind of plot business going on regarding the bonus stages, too, as whenever you exit one, you're shown a screen where a witch and some monsters loom over a bunch of orbs (if you successfully complete one of the bonus stages, which seems to take forever, the orbs are revealed to have generic fantasy heroes trapped inside them).

You can describe a lot of things in Dragon's Revenge as being "like Devil Crush, but inferior", which probably stems from its cash-in, almost mockbuster origins. It's uglier, less fun to play and the music isn't as good, and to top it all off, it really doesn't have an identity of its own. I could go on and on listing every little thing I didn't like about it, but that wouldn't be interesting for me to write, or for you to read. I don't recommend you play it, except out of grim curiosity. Play any of the actual Crush games instead, or even Kyuutenkai Fantastic Pinball, which, other than the name and the cute theme, is essentially a fourth (fifth?) Crush game.