Thursday, 18 December 2014
Hi no Tori Hououhen (MSX)
The unique factor is that Hi no Tori adds an element of exploration to the mix. Exploration in a scrolling shooter might be hard to fathom, but it does work fairly well. The stages only scroll upwards, but they do loop vertically, and there are exits to the left and right at certain points, essentially making each stage a collection of interlinked sub-stages.
The player spends each stage seeking out stone tablets, each marked with kanji, which open gates marked with the same kanji, until one of those gates leads to the stage's boss fight. Boss fights take place in their own seperate, non-scrolling stage, a cool-looking cave made of skulls. The game looks pretty great in general, easily one of the best-looking MSX games I've seen, up there with Aleste 2.
It's technically sound, too, with your shots coming out pretty much as fast as you can press the fire button and Takahashi Meijin-esque displays of button-hammering prowess are a skill worth developing for this game, as a fair few of the enemies are mild bullet sponges, while others might be weak, but attack in thick, aggressive formations. Most of the power-ups are typical of shooting games of the era: improving the range of the player's shots, increasing the player's movement speed, etc., but one odd point is that there's two different kinds of invincibility item: one that causes enemies to die on contact while in effect, and one that doesn't.
Hi no Tori is a pretty good game, that's unique and it looks great, though it is very difficult. Not to the sadistic level of Evil Stone, but its difficulty definitely lives up to the stereotype carried by late 80s shooting games. I'd say it's definitely worth a look if you're curious.