Monday, 6 April 2015

Itazura Tenshi (Arcade)

I've said before about how sometimes, when looking through lists of games, certain titles seem to jump out at you for no obvious reason. Itazura Tenshi is one of those games, and I'm glad it did. In the early 1980s, most games set in outer space would be sci-fi themed shooting games about spaceships, with maybe some greek mythological imagery thrown in, if the designers were fans of Saint Seiya or Ulysess 31. Itazura Tenshi takes a different route, being themed around a cosmic fantasy romance, and starring an angel instead of a spaceship.

The angel in question endeavours to win the heart of his celestial love by touching the stars in the sky and turning them into constellations. He doesn't perform this task unopposed, however, as various obstacles stand in his way. There's UFOs flying around randomly shooting, other angels who not only chase our hero around, but also try to undo his hard work, and for some reason there's also crabs casually wandering about and getting in the way. Oh, and every now and then, a wizard in a green robe will give chase, shooting bolts of magic along the way.

The game only uses the joystick and one button. The button does serve two purposes, however: most of the time it just makes the angel flap his wings and fly faster, but on collection of a bow, it also shoots arrows for a limited time. The bow power-ups work slightly oddly though, as picking one up while you already have one won't extend the time it lasts, so for more shots, you have to wait until your current bow runs out before collecting another.

There's also at least two bonus sections in the game, too. The first happens when the player completes half of the constellations in a stage, and compares the number of stars still unmarked to those the player has touched, and offers a bonus if the player has done more. This is a bonus the player really has to work for, since getting more than half the stars in this way means deliberately ignoring the simpler constellations, and also partially completing some, all while avoiding the various things out to kill them (which is hard enough already). The other happens after a whole stage has been completed and is a lot easier, simply having the player guide the angel into the arms of his love as they run towards each other from across the screen. Success sees the two embrace, with a points bonus and the message "I LOVE YOU FOREVER!", failure awards no points, and "A BROKEN HEART!".

Itazura Tenshi is a game I recommend giving a go, as it's very pretty and has a nice theme that was fairly unusual at the time, and still pretty unusual today. I do warn though, that the difficulty level is merciless right from the start, and the experience of playing it is a mix of fascination and frustration. There's an idea that I've seen attributed to Yu Suzuki (though I don't know how legitimate that attribution is) that while great console games are like classic novels, great arcade games are like works of poetry, and I think Itazura Tenshi is a great example of that idea.

1 comment:

  1. What a weird coincidence--I just came to this article after reading an interview with an old game developer who used that exact quote! (It was Kouichi Yotsui, director of Strider.)

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