Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Crest of Wolf (PC Engine)

So, Crest of Wolf, which is also known as Riot Zone, is a port of the arcade game Riot City. Wikipedia says that the reason for all this is that while Westone owned the rights to the game itself, while SEGA owned the title and all the characters. I don't know how true that is, but since it sounds like the arrangement that lead to the altered PC Engine ports of the Wonderboy in Monsterland games, it seems plausible.

Anyway, it's a pretty average beat em up, of the kind that sprouted up in their dozenns in the early 90s, following the release of Final Fight. It doesn't do anything particularly interesting or innovative with the forumla, with the characters only having pretty basic movesets, and there aren't even any weapons to pick up and use. To make things even worse, this port of the game doesn't even have a two-player mode, which is a particular shame, since I was looking forward to playing this co-op when I eventually got round to getting a multitap and another controller for my PC Engine.

It does have something in its favour, though: its aesthetic and presentation! The usual beat em up influences of Hokuto no Ken, The Warriors and Streets of Fire aren't so present in Crest of Wolf, and in their place is something a little more interesting. The game takes place in a very chinese-looking lawless island city that's reminiscent of the real-life Kowloon Walled City, which was in the process of being demolished when this game came out in 1993. Another possible inspiration that came to mind when I saw the mouldy concrete, rotting brickwork and general dilapidation of the locales seen in the game is Jademan Wong's comic Oriental Heroes, specifically the late 1980s incarnation that got a run translated into English.

It's not only original, but also really atmospheric, even with minimal animation. There's one part in particular that really caught my imagination: near the start of stage three, you fight in front of a seedy mahjong parlour, with people crowded round small tables, sat on stools and chain-smoking as mice scrurry back and forth across the floor. The boss of the same stage is an evil acupuncturist who you fight in his office, with diagrams on the walls and so on. I don't know why more games haven't used a similar setting.

So yeah, on a purely mechanical level, Crest of Wolf isn't anything special. It's not bad, but it's not a lost gem of the genre or anything, either. I think the setting and the atmosphere more than make up for that, though, and it's a game that's definitely worth your time.

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