GAME REVIEWS

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Benkei Gaiden

~ BENKEI GAIDEN ~
Sunsoft
HuCard
1989

I'm always up for a good HuCard RPG, but the main reason I was looking forward to playing Benkei Gaiden was that it would afford me the opportunity to listen to another Sunsoft PCE soundtrack. City Hunter, Out Live, and (especially) Batman have high-quality audio, and I was thrilled to discover that Benkei, too, features that distinct sound that Sunsoft was able to pull off with the system's sound chip. Sweet, breezy town tunes and a frantic (but remarkably catchy) last-battle track highlight the effort. The number used for the game's combat scenes is supported by a bassline that sounds an awful lot like a frog croaking really fast, which I find strangely amusing.

Toad-like rumbling aside, Benkei's battles have some issues. They often feel dragged out, as the text messages that detail the action hang there for a moment as if to make certain the player reads each insignificant tidbit (such as "TWO DAMAGE") in its glorious entirety. You'll probably get used to the delays after a while, but players shouldn't have to get used to such things. Also, if more than one specimen of a certain enemy type is present for a fight (say you've got three giant skulls to deal with), you can choose to attack the group of 'em, but you can't specify which individual beast you'd like to target (so your party members might split their assaults among the aforementioned skulls instead of intelligently killing one at a time, leaving all three alive to perform their own attacks).

The unappealing enemy designs utilized early in the game do nothing to make the prospect of combat more alluring. Too many of the frontline foes are poorly drawn or simply goofy in nature. For a while, wolves and mysterious women in white are the only neat adversaries to be encountered; but additional impressive creatures, including ocean titans and horses with manes and tails of fire, appear later on.




The bosses, while not particularly stout, do look pretty cool (and, in some cases, a bit crazy).



The images that appear in the heroes' profiles were also drawn well.



Outside of the battle-scene and profile sketches, Benkei presents visuals that are likely along the lines of what you'd expect from an old chip RPG.



As you might also expect from such a title, there aren't many captivating plot points to experience. But the story does take a somewhat shocking turn towards the very end (and the essence of the final conflict can be understood by players unable to read Japanese), and during a memorable sequence earlier in the adventure, the heroes investigate a sparkling spot of sea only to be accosted by an enormous water dragon.



Benkei isn't a very difficult game to get through, but here are links to some helpful guides:

http://gamersparadise.fc2web.com/koryaku/benkei/benkei.html
http://kogemaru.sugoihp.com/benkei/index.htm
http://www.h3.dion.ne.jp/~realrobo/game/benkei/ben.htm

Even if you make use of those guides, you'll need to do some poking around to uncover all of the game's secrets. You never know when you might stumble upon something important.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

The music in this one really is pretty cool.

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