Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bouken Danshaken Don (The Lost Sunheart)

I'MAX / Manjyu-do

The Lost Sunheart has garnered the reputation of being a "diamond in the rough" among the not-so-many who have experienced it. Personally, I have no qualms with it being left off lists of unappreciated PC Engine gems. To credit it as a neat little shooter that few have heard of is acceptable, but it does very little in my view to merit sleeper status.

Coming in, I expected unimpressive visuals and weak weaponry. I was sure there were reasons the game receives so little attention, after all. The fact that it met my pessimistic expectations in those respects was not a big deal. But I also anticipated that it would display some intriguing concepts at work to make it worthy of the "cult following" its few fans profess to be a part of. I didn't see much along those lines, but I did encounter lots of small enemies with an affinity for moving in from behind and firing tiny projectiles that would tirelessly trail my ship about the screen. Those enemies were not cool and not fun to deal with. But deal with them I did, enduring horrible sound effects all the while and "enjoying" cinematic break scenes barely up to the level of Energy's awful bookend story bits.

I searched high and low for the promised "cool stuff." I discovered that I could earn new auxiliary items for my craft; but when I actually bothered to pause the game (which one must in order to switch between said items), I found nothing particularly interesting in the heap--just typical charge lasers and option orbs and the like. I stuck with heat-seeking whatever-they-ares for the most part, anyway. I fired them from a variety of ship types throughout the adventure, but there really weren't any non-cosmetic differences between the ships themselves.

The music could've been a "redeeming factor." I fell in love with the rich, passion-imbued third-stage tune after a mere four seconds... and then realized that those four seconds of notes would loop throughout the entire lengthy level. But while the soundtrack isn't perfect and doesn't work any miracles, it does feature some sweet melodic moments. Also, the bosses and mini-bosses are actually pretty cool. Face-offs with them aren't all that cerebral, really, but there's enough thought involved to make the battles enjoyable and fairly difficult to emerge victorious from.

Is Lost Sunheart bad? Nah. But it's a PCE shooter, for crying out loud, and PCE shooters are supposed to show some guts and pride. This is a staunch lot we're talking about. If I'm gonna play a chip shooter that offers poor presentation elements and relies heavily on ideas, I'd rather go with Rock On (call me a madman, but that game is ace concept-wise). Lost Sunheart is pleasant to listen to at times and offers some neat bosses to spar with, but overall, it disappoints.

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