Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Shui Hu Feng Yun Zhuan (Mega Drive)

This is a review of the Mega Drive game, "Shui Hu Feng Yun Zhuan", and as the ROM isn't yet widely available, it might even be the first ever English-language review of it. Exciting, eh?
Anyway, as you might have guessed from the title, and the obscurity of the game, it's Chinese. I can't read any Chinese at all, so I can't tell you anything about the plot of this game, or even the names of its characters. I can tell you that it was made in 1999, by someone called "Never Ending Soft Team", though.
It seems absurd to have gone so long in a review of a game without actually talking about the game, so I will.
It's a beat em up, and at first glance, doesn't seem like anything special, with rubbish animation, and various things blatantly nicked from other beat em ups. I thought this too, the first time I played it, until I finished playing, and found that well over an hour had passed without my noticing.
I suppose I should get the bad things out of the way first, then.

For a start, it isn't very original. There are three characters to pick from, Average Shonen Guy, Lady Weakbutfast, and Brave Sir Tank, and the controls are like almost every other MD beat em up, with A being the "special", B being "attack, and C being "jump". The animation, particularly on the player characters is awful. The large food and treasure items can be cut up into smaller chunks, in exactly the same manner as in Capcom's "Knights of the Round", and the poses your characters do when they activate their special attack is the exact same pose that the characters in Golden Axe in the same situation. To top it all off, the enemies'death cries seem to have been directly ripped from Streets of Rage.
Despite all these faults though, this is still a great game. Although poorly animated, each sprite is quite detailed, and all have character and charm, from the giant whip-weilding, slightly nordic-looking woman, to the gut-bearing fat arabian guy. The special attacks, rather than having one per character, are instead represented by different collectible items, each containing a different spell, and of which there are at least 5 varieties. The player can hold 5 of these items at a time, which sounds like a lot, making the game too easy, but this is where the game's greatest strength comes in - balance. You get a lot of magic items, but there are always a lot of enemies on screen, with very few calm moments in which to catch one's breath. Similarly, the game is seemingly over-generous with extra lives, giving one every 50,000 points, but again, the excellent balance saves it, at by the end of each level, you're more than likely to be down to your last life, adding extra drama and desperation as you struggle to beat the boss with your last few pixels of life, knowing that if you can just make it, the end of level bonus will take you to your next extra life, and you'll be able to rest easy again.
In conclusion, then, Shui Hu Feng Yun Zhuan is a great game, that hopefully, over time, will find itself crawling out of absolute obscurity, and into semi-obscurity, because, let's be honest, it's never going to be fammous, is it?

(originally posted on on 3rd july 2007)

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