Thursday, 6 September 2018

Simple 2000 Series Vol. 73 = The Saiyuutou Saruden (PS2)

This game has a lot in common with the early Oneechanbara games: it's by Tamsoft, it's a low budget musou game, and it has a lot of wandering around big, multi-map stages like a lost idiot. But! There isn't just the "Journey to the West" theme to differentiate it, as it does actually bring a few ideas to the table, even if they're more interesting in theory than they are fun to engage with in practice.

The premise is one that just seems so obvious for a 3D game based on Journey to the West: you play as Monkey (and later Pigsy and Sandy too), and your job is to escort Tripitaka (note: I'm using the names from the UK dub of the 1970s Japanese live action Saiyuki TV show, just for convenience) across big stages filled with various kinds of demons. There's a few complications that took me a while to figure out at first, though.

Firstly, you've got to find the place to which you're escorting Tripitaka. You go out, find the thing, then go back and tell her, and she'll start moving. There's a huge statue you've got to find and take her to to pray to, and a smaller statue, the finding of which will encourage Tripitaka to take you to the sealed gate to the stage's boss, that you have to fight. The first two bosses are Pigsy and Sandy, and Sandy is the point at which I gave up on the game, after spending over 30 minutes repeatedly being killed by him. Sorry, but he takes off a third of your health right at the start with an unavoidable combo, and then interrupts all your attempts to fight him with the same. It's no fun, and it totally killed my interest in the game.

But other than that, the whole reconnaisance/escort aspect of the game does a lot to differentiate it from other musou games, though I feel it might have been better if they'd have waited a few years and put it on more powerful hardware. The problem is that the stages have to be pretty big by the nature of the game, which means they have to be split up into a few smaller maps, with loading times between each of them. Since you're definitely going to be back and forth, that means you're subjected to numerous loading screens no matter what. There's also the problem that when you leave an area and come back, all the enemies will have respawned, though you can lighten that burden by just running past them all the first time through.

Obviously, though I spent a few hours playing The Saiyuutou Saruden and it does have some potential, I can't really recommend it. It's a shame its ideas never got re-explored on hardware more capable of fulfilling them. Also, it's totally ruined by the unfair, unfun bosses (even though I did beat the first one, it was still an awful experience, and mainly down to luck).

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