GAME REVIEWS

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Momotarou Katsugeki

~ MOMOTAROU KATSUGEKI ~
Hudson Soft
HuCard
1990

Katsugeki is commonly referred to as "the good one" when the PC Engine's Momotarou games are discussed. Of course, this has a lot to do with the others being primitive Japanese board games and RPGs that few have spent more than a couple of minutes with. (In actuality, Densetsu II and Densetsu Gaiden are pretty darn good.) But even independent of comparisons with its "inaccessible" siblings, Katsugeki seems to have earned widespread respect as a quality platformer.

That didn't exactly mean that the game would work for me, however. Cartoony platformers generally aren't my thing. I do love a few of them, including New Adventure Island with its urgent pacing and Son Son II with its exploration elements. But I've never been a fan of the adventures that proceed in leisurely fashion as one hops and bops along, picking up coins or what-have-you and contending with mindless little adversaries; the "intrinsic fun" of these titles usually eludes me. So I wasn't all that thrilled to find after a few seconds of play that Katsugeki seemed to be of this lackadaisical ilk.



But upon being given a chance, Katsugeki won me over by providing an enormously wide variety of obstacles and challenges. Flipping platforms, floating platforms, sliding hooks, mechanical crusher claws, spinning razor blades, plummeting stalactites, water spouts, lava geysers, ladder-climbing gauntlets, flesh-covered teeth pits, enemies that give you rides, enemies that hurl their heads at you, flame wielders, bomb droppers, swimming sections, animal-aided aerial fights... you really never know what you're going to have to deal with next in this game. Sure, none of those obstacles or ideas were brand new concepts when Hudson employed them for Katsugeki, but they're implemented so well here, with such frequent and seamless transitions from one to the next, that they seem very fresh and exciting.



Along with handling all that platforming stuff, you'll have to manage your inventory. You can earn money by killing creatures and spend that money in countryside shops, very similar to how commerce works in Keith Courage's overworld areas. Item names being displayed in hiragana will be a downer for some, but it doesn't take a whole lot of experimentation to figure out which ones happen to warp you back to town or restore health or provide special temporary attack powers. And the stores provide pictures of their wares, so you're never at a complete loss when making purchases.



Add in some attractive scenery (particularly the snow-stage backdrops) and catchy tunes and you end up with an addictive winner. But be warned! It's a little more expensive than the other buck-and-under Momo titles. Katsugeki might actually cost a lofty sum of, oh, four dollars or so. But the enjoyment it provides more than offsets the crippling damage it does to one's wallet.

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