Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hana Taaka Daka


Hana has a good reputation among those who have played it, but it didn't take long for me to realize that, mechanically, it isn't what I'd consider a superlative shooter. One thing I didn't like about it is that if you want to build up your firepower to a useful level, you've got to accept the fact that your hitbox will become ridiculously large. And depending on how successful you are in powering up, the bosses are either farcical characters who succumb to your attacks in seconds or stalwarts who withstand endless pummeling even after you've solved their patterns. Another thing I wasn't too keen on was the incorporation of charge attacks as an essential part of the player's repertoire, as my preference for auto-firing often fell by the wayside. Yet, even with all my biases stacked against it, Hana would stand for nothing less than me having a good time while playing it.

One of the primary reasons I enjoy it is the intricate (for a shooter) stage design. Each level contains two "puzzle pieces" for you to acquire; one falls right into your lap once you knock off the boss, but you won't find the other unless you do a bit of digging around. You've got to uncover the warp point to a special bonus round that contains the elusive piece, and locating the secret spot won't be all that easy since the levels offer you multiple paths to explore. And once you do gain access to the side-stage, you've got to fire away until the obscured object of your mission is revealed; you won't return to the level proper until you've succeeded.

Another reason Hana won me over is that its graphics are just so darn nice to look at. Light tones are implemented perfectly, calling to mind images of Super Mario World in some places and Castle of Illusion in others.

Pleasant music effectively complements the fine visuals. And while you're taking in the appealing sights and sounds of Hana's colorful world, you'll discover auxiliary weaponry that might seem unwieldy or strangely esoteric in function until you figure out the perfect way to use it, which brings no small sense of satisfaction. In fact, Hana turned out to be a satisfying product on the whole despite my initial misgivings.

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