Monday, 1 May 2017

Hiho Densetsu: Chris no Bouken (PC Engine)

Sometimes, certain games get a reputation of being incredibly, unplayably difficult, accessible to only the most resilient of players. A few of these games deserve such a reputation, but in a lot of cases all the games really require is a slightly higher level of dexterity than most games, and maybe a little pattern recognition when it comes to facing off against enemies and bosses. Though there isn't a lot of english-language writing about Hiho Densetsu: Chris no Bouken floating around out there, what there is does tend to mention the game's difficulty.

It's apparently even considered a Kusoge in some circles, so, just like I inadvertently did with my Renny Blaster review, I'm going to have to buck the trend. I actually thought this game was pretty good! It's nothing special, but it is good enough. The difficulty is mostly just a result of tight design. Every enemy has a very specific set pattern it follows in its movements and attacks, and that includes the bosses. So once you figure those out for an enemy type, you can beat every other enemy of that type with ease. And you get five hit points per life, so it's not like the game's totally unforgiving in that respect.

Another unforgiving aspect is the time limit. Each stage has a certain number of "days" for it's time limit. These "days" are acually only about 20-30 seconds, and you tend to get between three and nine of them to get through the stage, leaving you with no time to meander, you really have to figure things out as quickly as possible, beat enemies with a minimum of fuss and just generally storm your way through. Furthermore, if you die, even if it's during a boss fight, you go back to the start of the stage. Again, other than the "no checkpoints, ever" aspect, this is unforgiving, but still fair. The stages are clearly designed with this kind of play in mind: with one exception, they're totally linear, and it's pretty obvious what you have to do to get past the various obstacles in your way, requiring dextruous skill, rather than puzzle-solving insight.

There's a few interesting original ideas in here, too. For example, you start the game with a near-useless weapon with almost no range. To power it up, you collect two differently coloured orbs: red, blue or yellow. Each combination of two colours gives a different weapon. This itself is cool, but not something that hadn't been done before, even in 1991. What's cooler in relation to this idea is that a few stages into the game a kind of enemy startes to appear who doesn't do any damage to you, but instead steals one of your orbs and runs away, leaving you with the default weapon until you find another orb to go with the one you're left with.

So, Hiho Densetsu is a pretty good game, though it did take a few goes to grow on me. At first the slightly ugly look of it, and the harsh difficulty are off-putting, but stick with it, and it's a fun, satisfying little game.

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