Monday, July 27, 2009

Tengai Makyou Fuun Kabuki Den

Hudson Soft / Red
Super CD-ROM

Kabuki Den is my favorite Tengai Makyou game and certainly ranks as one of the upper-echelon PC Engine RPGs. Contrary to chronology it may be, but I always recommend playing KD first if you're interested in the PCE TM games. While Ziria initially seems primitive and slow and even Manji Maru needs a few hours to really hit its stride, Kabuki Den is crazy, colorful fun from the outset and is sure to pull you in with its vibrant visuals, uproarious cinemas, and wacky main character.

The game revels in delivering the unexpected, making it one heck of a suspenseful and exciting ride. You'll confront singing bosses, clown around at amusement parks, and even journey to London (and be treated to some amusing English dialogue).

But the adventure isn't all about carrying on and being goofy: you'll undoubtedly grow quite attached to the unique little band that Kabuki heads up and experience some traumatically tragic moments (one scene in particular is especially affecting and unforgettable).

The final stretch contains some of the craziest surprises you'll ever come across in a video game. The string of money moments near the end drops like a fucking bomb; it's insane, like the Usual Suspects ending of games but much wilder than that.

Of course, none of the showtime stuff would mean much if the actual gaming elements didn't hold up their end of the deal; thankfully, Kabuki Den's in-game mechanics and superficials are perfectly fine. Battles are reminiscent of old Final Fantasy rumbles presentation-wise. Characters and monsters run back and forth to hit each other, and spell animations are tossed in, but the scuffles play out fairly quickly, and you get some nice (if simplistic) backdrops to boot. There's even a command that allows you to engage in battle whenever you so desire, so you don't need to run around in circles waiting to be attacked if you want to level up.

The music is good, although it probably isn't the type of stuff that'll stick with you forever. Among the best tracks are a somewhat-eerie temple tune surprisingly reminiscent of Super Castlevania IV's music and a minor-boss number that features some fantastic bass parts.

Longtime Duomazov ally Justin Cheer wrote a very good KD walkthrough, so you don't need to worry too much about the language barrier. The menus aren't covered in the guide, and they can be pretty daunting at first; but you should experience smooth sailing after you've got the basics figured out, and you'll be all set to go with Manji Maru as well, as it plays in pretty much the same fashion.

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