Friday, 29 July 2016

Renny Blaster (PC Engine)

1995 seems like an absurdly late time to be releasing not only a single plane beat em up, but also a PC Engine game (I know there were still PCE games coming out for a couple more years after this, but the system's heyday was definitely long behind it by now), but Renny Blaster clearly sought to add a little sophistication to the genre, both mechanically and aesthetically.

In terms of aesthetic theming, it doesn't really do anything that hasn't been done before, as the game follows two snappily-dressed modern-day action exorcists, Fujiro the martial artist, and Seishiro the mage as they travel the world fighting demons, monsters and evil humans perfomring dark deeds with the dark arts. The difference is how Renny Blaster does these things: obviously, there's still going to be a bit of cheesy B-movie shlock, but it's mixed in with a bit of slightly classier horror-occult-noir that lifts it above the likes of Splatterhouse and Night Slashers in the sophistication stakes (not that I don't love those other games dearly, of course). It's hard to pinpoint why, exactly, but there's just something in the combination of colour palettes, stage settings, the way the main characters are dressed (more like characters from a Hong Kong action movie than a TV anime) and the voice acted conversations before each boss fight that makes the game feel a little more "adult" than its peers.

Mechanically, this is easily one of the most complex single plane beat em ups that I've ever played. Both of the characters have their own movesets, with moves performed by holding directions and attacking, jumping and attacking, and jumping and holding directions while attacks. There's also running attacks, and special attacks performed by holding the attack button for different lengths of time. Furthermore, it's possible to unlock more of these special attacks by finding items around the stages (move scrolls for Fujiro and spellbooks for Seishiro), and you can change which moves are equipped between stages (though all the move names are in Japanese, so if you can't read it, there's going to be a bit of guesswork involved, unfortunately). Considering this is a genre that's usually built around simplicity with maybe one special gimmick available to the player, Renny Blaster stands head and shoulders above its genremates in terms of complexity.

Of course, I wouldn't be so stupid as to automatically equate complexity with quality (or, for that matter, simplicity with inferiority), so is Renny Blaster actually good? Yes, it's great! I wouldn't go as far as to say it's the best in the genre, but it's up there with the likes of the Mega Drive port of Altered Beast and the original arcade version of My Hero (I'm not being sarcastic, by the way: Altered Beast MD is a great game, that's been given a much worse deal than it deserves over the years). 

It's definitely worth emulating Renny Blaster, at the very least. Since it's such a late release in the PC Engine's life, I'll assume getting a legitimate copy is for eccentric millionaires only, though I think there was a semi-official reprint a couple of years ago? I'm not sure. Anyway, it's a great game. Play it.

No comments:

Post a Comment