Thursday, 28 June 2018

Akanbe Dragon (MSX)

This is a game with an interesting premise, and the quick and easy way of describing it would be to compare it to a combination of chess and the Game Gear game Godzilla Kaiju Daishingeki (though it predates that game by a few years). Unfortunately, it scuppers all the goodwill generated by the concept through a few terrible design decisions.

I have to make an admission here: I never got past the first stage of this game. I played for hours, and made many attempts, and I did come close a few times, but in the end, the odds are stacked way too heavily against the player. But I should get onto actually describing the game. There's a map with a grid on it, and each square contains a different kind of terrain: mountains, plains, water, and so on. At the top and bottom of the map, there are two groups of monsters, the player at the bottom, and the enemies at the top. Each type of monster not only has four stats: HP, strength, speed, and jump, but they also have a chess class, which affects how they move on the grid (and like in chess, the aim is to kill your opponent's king).

When two monsters try to occupy the same space on the map, the game has them engage in a real-time, side-view, no time limit battle to the death. All the monsters attack by shooting stuff, though there's still a fair bit of variety in the attacks: some can fire a bunch of shots that quickly go in a straight line, others might only be able to fire off one shot at a time that takes a more wibbly path that's harder to dodge. Though the AI seems pretty good at moving its monsters around the map to keep a tactical advantage, in battle, the enemies all seem to just randomly bounce around the screen shooting at random. They'll still win a lot though, due to the game's biggest flaw: no matter what the situation, the enemy monsters always have significantly higher stats and more HP than your own, making every battle a precarious and miserable slog. Making things more annoying is how the strength is dealt out among your own monsters, with your pawn (amusing mis-spelt ingame as "porn") being second only to the king in strength, while your queen and knight are so weak as to be almost completely useless.

An interesting aside is that entering battle with the enemy king does something slightly different to normal enemies: he has his own specific battleground that overrides whatever terrain type on which you encounter him, and the battle feels more like a boss fight from a platform game. As far as I can tell, the best strategy to take is to get as many of your monsters to fight the king and wear him down before sending your king in to finish the job. I almost won with this method, but I guess the enemy had the same idea, as by the time the enemy king had taken out all my underlings, my king was weakened doing the same. On my last attempt, my king succumbed with only a sliver of the enemy king's health left. Unfortunately, I'd completely lost all patience with the game by this point, and had no desire to make any further attempts.

It's honestly a shame, as I really wanted to like Akanbe Dragon, but the atrocious balance means that I can't recommend it at all. If only playing it didn't seem like a futile uphill struggle, it mgiht have been a hidden classic.

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