Thursday, 20 December 2018

Shanghai Kid (Arcade)

Also known as Hokuha Syourin Hiryu no Ken, Shanghai Kid is the first in the long-running Hiryu no Ken series of fighting games and beat em ups. The last entries in the series were on the Playstation and N64, so I guess it just wasn't able to survive the move to 3D, though I'll save that talk for another time, as I do intend to cover a few other games in this series at some point in the future, but for now: back to Shanghai Kid. It looks like an early fighting game, though it's really more of an attempt at a more complex (for the time) martial arts simulator-type game.

The structure is the same as most fighting games even to this day: you fight a series of gradually more difficult opponents. The difference is in how the fighting takes place, and how you control your character, as the developers came up with a system that allows for quite a bit of sophistication using only two buttons and an eight-way joystick, long before special move motions or combos had been invented. The two buttons are predictably assigned to punch and kick, but the interesting stuff comes in the form of the joystick. Though you can walk left and right, jump, and crouch, those aren't the things you'll mainly be using the joystick for. Instead, the game uses a system of high, middle, and low attacks, as well as corresponding blocks.

The way this works is almost turn-based in its execution. There are red circles that will appear on you or your opponent, at the head, feet, or torso level. When a circle appears on you, you just press the joystick up, down, or sideways to block the incoming attack. When it appears on the opponent, you do the same, but you press punch or kick at the same time, to attack your opponent's temporary blind spot. Obviously, as the game goes on, and the difficulty of opponents increases, so does the speed at which circles appear, disappear, or change places. Another complication is that a few fights in, you start facing special opponents (including one that happens to look exactly like Tiger Mask! There are probably otther unofficial appearances from old manga characters too, that I haven't recognised) who have unique attacks, for which you'll need to figure out the most effective evasive maneuvers.

I really like Shanghai Kid, it's an interesting game, and the Hiryu no Ken series is interesting to me in general, so like I said earlier, expect to see some of the sequels covered here at some point in the future. Until then, obviously I recommend giving this game a try!

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